Insurance companies can sell their products anywhere in the EU – either by establishing themselves in other countries, or providing their services across borders directly, for example via their websites, or through intermediaries.
You can therefore shop around the European market for the best deals on insurance products (for example, life insurance, household insurance, and car insurance).
This only concerns private insurance and occupational pension funds and not your social security and statutory pension rights relating to your work history.
Insurance products may be sold either by insurance companies directly (often through websites), through insurance intermediaries (brokers, agents) or by businesses such as airlines, travel agencies, opticians or sellers of electronic appliances. Sellers of insurance products have to give you certain essential information about themselves and the insurance product before you sign a contract.
Key information so you can understand what you're buying
Before you sign up for an insurance product, you should receive a standardised information document, known as an "Insurance Product Information Document". This document will help you understand what you are buying and allow you to compare offers for similar insurance products from other insurers.
These rules do not apply to life insurance products.
The document you receive should be short (no more than 2 sides of A4), clearly written and explain the following:
- the name of the insurance product and the insurance company providing it
- the type of insurance
- what is insured
- what is not insured
- any restrictions in terms of cover
- your obligations
- when and how you have to pay
- when the cover starts and ends
- how you can cancel the contract
Before you sign a contract the person or company selling the insurance product must also tell you whether they're acting as an agent or broker and about their links to the insurance company providing the product. For example, they have to tell you whether they receive commission from the insurance company to sell their products.
Buying goods or services together with an insurance product
When you are offered a non-life insurance product together with another product or service – such as car insurance with your new car, or accidental damage insurance with your new laptop – you always have the right to buy the product or service without the insurance policy.
You can't be obliged to take out insurance with the trader you make your purchase with
Carole, from France, recently broke her glasses, so went to get a new pair at her local optician. After choosing her new glasses, the optician suggested she take out accidental damage cover in case she broke them again. He explained the cover and costs and gave her a brochure with the information, so she could think about it at home while waiting for her glasses to be made.
At home, Carole checked similar insurance policies with other companies online and found one that offered the same cover for a cheaper price. When she collected her new glasses a week later, she opted not to take the insurance policy offered by the optician. Instead she signed up for the cheaper policy she had found online.