Using voice stress analysis as part of tele-underwriting may be on the cards for the protection market.
The technology, in various guises, has been used for vetting claims by some insurers in the general insurance industry, but is now being explored at the front end.
Speculation is mounting that the protection market could also look into this in a bid to clamp down on non-disclosure.
General insurance broker, BDML, is set to trial voice stress analysis software in its front of house – previously only used by insurers at claims stage – from Inverita Validation Service.
The software monitors the intonation and pitch of a caller's voice and ascertains whether or not they are telling the truth when being underwritten.
Paul Stacy, operations director at BDML, said: "It's exciting as I think this is the future. A lot of problems are caused at point of claim because details aren't right. Most call centres in the UK are set up so you can handle the transaction and payment over the phone and that obviously does leave scenarios where they are not covered correctly as they haven't understood the questions competently or truthfully."
He added that the technology will help the company identify the risk and then deal with that risk by referring the customer to a specialist by asking for further proof of documentation or by not giving them a discount.
"While BDML is only trialling this technology, we would never use it in any way to discriminate customers. Even if they were lying, we would always offer them cover, but may not discount their policy," he explained.
While lie detectors may sound like a good idea to some people in the industry, it raises questions over how this would be perceived by consumers who are already sceptical of the insurance industry.
Mark Locke, spokesman for Aegon Scottish Equitable, believed it was "a step too far". The industry has a bad enough reputation with consumers on the issue of trust and he added most conversations are recorded anyway, making the idea of lie-detectors futile.
He explained tele-underwriters had to assume the consumer was telling the truth and the use of such a tool would paint an "extremely bad picture of the industry" that is already badly viewed.
Locke confirmed: "We would not even contemplate doing this."
Nicki Lundy, communications manager at Bright Grey, said: "Lie detectors have been used for some time in the short term insurance market, but at claims stage. To introduce them into the underwriting process for long term protection seems to go against the basis of the insurance contract which is entered into in good faith."
Lundy added that Bright Grey believed only a small minority of people intentionally lied on their application forms. "The real issue is that many people don't give the application process the amount of attention it requires," she explained.
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