Could your email address push up your car insurance?

Since the end of January, there have been headlines claiming that Hotmail users could be charged more for their car insurance than Gmail users, following claims made in an article in The Sun newspaper.

But could your email address push up your car insurance, or are other factors at play?

The newspaper’s research tried Hotmail and Gmail addresses with otherwise identical vehicle details on the major price comparison sites, including MoneySuperMarket, Confused.com and GoCompare.

Insurance from Admiral proved more expensive for a ‘Hotmail driver’ in every case – by £5.60 on Confused.com, £6.57 on MoneySuperMarket and a hefty £31.36 on GoCompare.

When they asked Admiral about the difference, a spokesperson apparently admitted that the applicant’s email domain IS used as a pricing factor, telling The Sun: “Certain domain names are associated with more accidents than others.”

So on the surface of it, it would appear that if you’re looking to cut car insurance premiums, it might be worth registering a Gmail address rather than using your old Hotmail account from the 1990s.

Hidden forces at work

As you might expect, there’s more to this story than meets the eye, and over at MoneySavingExpert.com, which is owned by MoneySuperMarket, the editorial team did some research of their own.

MSE insurance analyst Tony Forchione explained: “We ran three quotes on three different comparison sites, with the same details on each, but using Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo! email addresses as the only variant.”

In their research, MSE found the price quoted by six companies did not change, including Brightside, Churchill, Privilege, Rias, Swinton and Tesco.

But half of those tested – including Admiral – did change their quote when the email address used on the application was altered.

Admiral, Diamond, Elephant, Hastings Direct and People’s Choice only ever adjusted their price by under £5, leaving just one insurer, One Call, whose premium rose by £14.35 in one case.

However, it is worth pointing out that a One Call spokesperson stressed that email address domains are not used in pricing any of their products.

MSE’s article notes: “There was no overall pattern as to which email address gave the cheapest results. For instance, in some cases the Gmail quote was cheapest, but in others it was the most expensive.”

Outside influences

So if the email address used is not a consistent pricing factor, why does the quote change when the enquiry is resubmitted with a new contact address?

In fact it might not be the email address’s domain, but simply the fact that it has changed, that triggers a price hike in the quotes that are provided by the insurers.

A spokesperson for Hastings told MSE: “Our anti-fraud and pricing software do screen for inaccurate customer details and this may create a result in which the premium appears to vary based on, for example, a name change.”

Because of this, resubmitting an identical vehicle spec, but with a change in contact details, may count as a red flag for insurers – highlighting the importance of getting your details right first time when you compare car insurance prices.