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Can I opt-out of a renewal quote under section 11 of the DPA?

Like the majority of car insurance companies these days, my car insurance company required me to sign-up to a rolling contract in 2011. We all know that insurance companies do this to make money because they tend to lower their premiums in the first year in order to compete in the market; they try to lock you in to a second year so that they can hike up the premium and get their money back. And while I accept that some people actually prefer to have their insurance automatically renewed, the majority of people don't. I'm one of the ones that don't because I'm quite capable of managing my own affairs. Indeed, it's no big deal for me to put a alert into Outlook to let me know when my insurance is due for renewal and in the 28 years that I've been driving I've only ever renewed with the same company once and that's because I wasn't able to beat their renewal quote. Normally however, I switch insurer each year.

direct marketing and car insuranceAnyway, I started thinking about section 11 and the legal obligation placed upon my insurance company to comply with a section 11 request. If I opted out of all marketing from my insurance company would they be entitled to send me a renewal quote? Bearing in mind that a renewal quote is likely to constitute direct marketing - as they're promoting their service for a further year. So I opted out under section 11 and made it clear that I did not wish to receive a renewal quote. My insurance company responded by claiming that they had statutory obligations that required them to send me a renewal quote and sure enough, in 2012, they sent me the renewal. Of course I didn't renew with them but did they fail to comply with my section 11 request?

I've since contacted the insurance company and have asked them to clarify exactly what statutory obligation gives them the right to ignore their legal obligation to comply fully with my rights as their data subject. They replied quoting the following references to the Insurance Conduct of Business sourcebook (ICOBS):

ICOBS 6.1.5
A firm must take reasonable steps to ensure a customer is given appropriate information about a policy in good time and in a comprehensible form so that the customer can make an informed decision about the arrangements proposed.

ICOBS 6.1.6
The appropriate information rule applies pre-conclusion and post-conclusion, and so includes matters such as mid-term changes and renewals. It also applies to the price of the policy.

I've had a look at this on the FSA's website and noticed that ICOBS is listed under the section called Business standards and not under the section called Regulatory processes. So I'm wondering whether ICOBS is more likely to be a code of practice than a statutory obligation. If so, then as far as I'm concerned, it's unlikely that a code of practice can be used as a valid reason to negate a statutory obligation to comply with my section 11 request.

I contacted the FSA on the 02/02/2013 and asked them to clarify. I'll update this page when I know more.

Update: 10/03/2013

The FSA have clarified that an insurance company has a regulatory obligation not a statutory obligation to provide me with a renewal notice. The FSA see this as good practice. I am of the opinion therefore that under normal circumtances it's unlikely that a section 11 request would prevent an insurance company from sending out a renewal notice. However, if the data subject has specifically requested not to receive a renewal notice/quote then the statutory right afforded the data subject by an Act of Parliament should supercede any non-statutory obligtion. I have now asked the ICO to clarify.

Update: 29/04/2013

The ICO has conducted an assessment (RFA0487660) and has concluded that the insurance company should have honoured my specific request not to receive a renewal quote.