Along with things like gnomes and unmarked bank accounts, Zurich is virtually a byword for financial probity. So perhaps it’s no surprise that the insurer of that name has led the way in doing what most personal lines motor insurers have long been saying they could not afford not to do but haven’t actually done much: hiking up their rates.

“You do it.” “No, you do it.” “No you.” Insurers have been saying for longer than anyone can be bothered to remember. Now finally, one has shown steely resolve by insisting on a 20% increase across the board.

The increase is unavoidable, Zurich told its broker partners, due to a massive rise in third party claimant costs, PI claims in particular, driven by claims farming and referral fees.

Steve Lewis, chief executive, UK general insurance, said: “We have seen a 30% increase in bodily injury frequency with a worsening trend throughout 2009. This, combined with high inflation, has resulted in a 50% increase in the cost of covering bodily injury losses in the last few years.” If the trend continues, he warned, even 20% may not be enough.

“Indications that the PL motor market is running at a combined operating ratio of over 120%,” he said, “mean the pressure is on all insurers to bring about an improvement in the market performance.”

“So come on,” he didn’t say. “Last one in’s a sissy.”

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