Some insurance companies are charging their customers national or even premium call rates to contact them by phone.

Research from Screentrade found customers contacting Admiral's internet brand insurer Elephant paid 60p a minute for calls at all times – for both queries and making a claim.

Those insurers charging a national rate of 7.98p a minute during office hours included the AA and Insurancewide.

Paul Charles, editor-in-chief of Screentrade, said: “A customer could be on the phone for well over ten minutes if they have to report an accident – the last thing they want to be doing is running up another huge bill.”

A spokesman for Elephant admitted the calls were expensive but he said this was to discourage telephone callers as it was an internet brand.

“The idea is that people will deal with us over the internet. If people send an email there are people here 24 hours a day to deal with it.”

He said there were no immediate plans to reduce the call charges.