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An older woman reading by a fireLoyal, mostly elderly customers of home insurance companies are being royally ripped off . Photograph: Alamy

How much should the buildings insurance be on a £250, 000 terrace house in Redcar, north-east England? It probably wouldn’t be difficult to find quotes for less than £200. Yet what the son of the elderly woman living alone in the house found after going through her papers following her death in 2010 brings shame on one of our biggest financial institutions, Halifax.

What was Halifax’s response? Did it review the premium and reduce it to reflect the prices that other people were paying in the market? Oh no. What Halifax appears to have done is reopen her former mortgage account with the bank, then charge the insurance premiums to that account. Halifax then continued jacking up the price every year, to a vastly inflated £800 at the time of her death – a figure her son says is around six times the going rate. The final insult was that Halifax charged interest on the unpaid premiums, making ever more profit out of its elderly, loyal and vulnerable customer.

Mrs Laurie’s son discovered the situation when going through his mother’s papers after her death. He knew his parents had paid off their mortgage with Halifax many years ago, so was, in his words, “startled” to find there was a balance owing on her mortgage account of nearly £3, 000. This was the amount that Halifax had charged in inflated home insurance premiums, plus the interest compounded on top.

“My mother had been good at managing money, but as she got old she couldn’t face change so she persisted in dealing with the same companies. These organisations appear to be exploiting vulnerable people who are unable, for one reason or another, to deal with the hassle of constantly renegotiating terms, ” says her son.



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