Hardball: The E-surance Trap

Web agencies get hurt by being too good

Of all the goods and services that can be purchased on the Internet, few have plunged as much in price as life insurance, a product that is hundreds of years old. The size of the drop has been startling. The same 20-year, $500,000 term-life policy that cost a healthy 40-year-old male $995 a year in 1995 now costs just $455 on average--a decline of 54%, even though consumer prices rose nearly 15% over that period.

While Americans are living longer and competition has grown increasingly fierce in the $100 billion life-insurance industry, that's only part of the story. A good chunk...

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