Monday, 14 July 2008

Churchill & The Two-Finger Salute!

Last week I obtained 70 online car insurance quotations for 3rd party fire and theft, ranging in price from £279 -£1285 for my new (secondhand) Skoda, using a variety of price comparison sites. Can you guess which one I went for?

No more fully comp for me after Churchill (a major British insurer which prides itself on the emulation of British values) decided that its British values are incompetence, gross underestimation of both car and customer and trying to string the customer along until they either lose the will to live or die of old age. Yes their quotes may be competitive, but forget it if you ever need to make a claim. As for that legal cover you took out with them, forget about them employing it to defend your no-claims honour against a dangerous road surface on Britain's Deadliest Road - no matter that your car decided at low speed (and of its own volition) to aquaplane at temporary roadwork traffic lights in treacherous conditions.

So that my suffering and paperwork hell of the last four months since the crash has not been in vain I thought I would share with you several useful insights I have gleaned about car insurance companies when you need them - knowledge I found very lacking on the net when I needed it;

a. ALWAYS claim for whiplash injury, even if you only have it for a day as they will stitch you up big time on your car valuation. Not being in the habit of crashing, my mistake was trying to be totally honest and honourable, assuming they would behave likewise towards me, despite friends warning (and urging) me otherwise.
b. Always strip your written-off car of everything you can & claim the money back for any unused road tax on the disc/extract the stereo if it's any good. I only wish I'd had the means to lever my recent tyres off as well!
c. NEVER accept the insurance company's first insultingly low offer. This is regarded by them as an 'opening gambit' to ascertain how big a mug you are and should be regarded by you likewise. However do swat up on the value of your car and your insurance policy wording as you need to be sure of the moral/legal high ground before arguing with these people re what your entitlements really are.
d. Hassle them by telephone EVERY DAY or they'll let your claim drag on ad infinitum. Always be icily polite but insistent. It drives them nuts. One call centre supervisor, 'Russell', said he didn't like my 'insulting attitude' just because I kept asking to speak to the Customer Service Manager (CSM) and pointing out I couldn't afford to accept his 'final offer'. But as a friend remarked it wasn't up to 'Russell' to either like or dislike my attitude if I wasn't actually giving him verbal abuse or insulting him. In fact 'Russell' was being downright unprofessional by making personal remarks and trying to deviate from the point.
e. Always record names/dates/phone conversation details for future reference and keep all correspondence.
f. Finally like me, you will probably be forced to acknowledge that it is unlikely the spotty 17 year-old call centre operator will be authorised to go above a certain amount (usually an extra £100, which they will always insist is their 'last offer'). In addition they will try and lie to you that they have no Customer Service Manager (CSM), as to escalate your case affects their bonus. One 'Leanne' was so desperate to get rid of me, she lied to me that my written-off car had actually been fixed! Reaching a brick wall on one level dictates you move on to the next level.
g. Failing the holy grail of a Customer Service Manager, find out the Regional Manager's address and phone number, and if you get no joy out of him, the Managing Director himself. As a last resort there is the Financial Ombudsman to complain to (free to you, but it'll cost your insurers so it is not technically in their interests to allow things to escalate this far)
h. If you have legal cover and believe the accident was not your fault, insist it is used - Churchill denied me mine on the grounds that they didn't have 100% chance of winning against Oxfordshire Highways. Which kind of makes you wonder what are they doing selling legal cover if they have no intention of letting customers use it? And since when was any case a dead cert???
i. In Britain the Association of British Insurers stipulate that a final claim settlement should be enough to allow the insured to replace their lost vehicle with one of equivalent quality, allowing for regional/time of year price differentiations. It is as well to keep reminding the insurer of this industry-standard obligation as well as sending them at least 6 print-outs of equivalent age/model/condition cars as your own for the price that you seek.
Check out any insurance watchdogs, ombudsmen or regulatory and industry standard bodies in your neck of the woods.

And before you ask, after all that, my final settlement for the Rover was still pathetic. Too depressing to talk about indeed. And contrary to the whole point and spirit of 'insurance', I was left significantly out-of-pocket by the accident. I suppose I should be grateful not to have been in a worse accident, and I am - when the paperwork permitted me time to reflect and recover the will to live that is!

To sum up, God help anyone sick or elderly who needs to fight the same battle with today's insurer. Much though insurance companies undeniably need to protect themselves against fraud, they are bludgeoning the majority of us who are honest too, and perversely, actively encouraging dishonesty (such as exaggerated injury claims) by very dint of their renowned meanness and own brand of rip-offery.

But hey what else did I expect from a disturbingly obscene orgasmic animated dog?

Perhaps someone should report him to Watchdog...?

Other sites of interest;

Beware Car Insurer Tricks on Write-Offs

Fluxsposure - an Insider's Take on the Insurance Industry


Jock Coats said...

Don't forget that not all of the best insurers let themselves onto comparison sites. I don't think I pay as much as that lowest quote through CIS (Co-operative Insurance). And they still send a nice man to you to get the paperwork signed!

...but I do like Pratchett's rendering - inn-sewer-ants!

teeni said...

Wow - that sounds horrendous but then again our auto insurance in the states here isn't any better. I like that you are looking out for the elderly too. I think they get taken the most advantage of in both of our society's.

Steve said...

They're all basards through and through Laura. I feel sorry for the Americans who have to rely on health care insurance to pay for operations - can you imagine if we had that here? Churchill needs a week's training with Victoria Stillwell - she'll have him rolling over for you in no time!

Can Bass 1 said...

I wish, dear lady, I could recommend the alternative to car ownership and - therefore - insurance claims hassle. But public transport is not what it once was, I fear!

Rol said...

A depressing story, Laura - sorry to hear it... though I was perhaps more troubled by your description of "a disturbingly obscene orgasmic animated dog".

Maybe you've seen a different advert to me... it's hardly When Harry Met Sally, surely?

KAZ said...

Thanks for all the advice Laura. I'll cut and paste for the day I might need it.
Hope you and the Skoda will have a long and happy time together.

Wisewebwoman said...

A pox of 10,000 camels on all their houses.

The Sagittarian said...

ach, insurance-spewerance I say! They'll all happily take your premiums but you try and get 'em back.

The Poet Laura-eate said...

Thanks for the reminder Jock. Though I did actually get a quote from the ethical insurers CIS (also my bank) and it was £468.

Teeni, I'm a firm believer that we are the customers/people and we need use our people (aka bulk customer) power to make companies listen to us!

Steve you are so right, and I rant about healthcare regularly too as you know.

Can bass 1 - I have a bus route in the week, but regrettably not at weekends/nights to my place, so my driving is off-peak as it were and I try to keep my motoring mileage pretty modest.

Rol, I'm sure being in advertising you could do a much better job for Churchill. Shame I have to forbid it on the grounds that they are unworthy of your talents/you'd be selling your soul to the devil!

Thanks Kaz - anyone I can help or save from the same situation is one in the eye for Churchill!

WiseWebWoman Thanks - I accept this blessing!

Sagittarian, you are not wrong there. Or even in-sewerance...?

Steerforth said...

I left Churchill two days ago - in the nick of time!

I've had two major crashes - neither of them my fault - and each time I've ended up out of pocket with a worse car. I don't trust the insurer's verdict 'Uneconomical to repair. Uneconomical to whom?'

Brother Tobias said...

Your experience sounds all too familiar, except you handled it more tenaciously and successfully. Go Laura-eate!

Like Steerforth, we ended up out of pocket in an indisputably no fault accident - and our insurer declined to renew, presumably on the grounds that having once been struck by a runaway tractor, it was more likely to happen again.

The Poet Laura-eate said...

And isn't it ironic Steerforth that we live in this age where we are supposed to be 'greening' up and yet a car will be written off at the slightest dent as 'uneconomical to repair' these days - how does THAT work?

BT - That is indeed appalling. I hope you exposed these a-hole insurers of yours on your blog to help others avoid them. I do remain convinced that people-power is the way to get both the companies and the governments we want! Tenacity only got me so far alas. And four months without a vehicle of any kind in the process.

Stephen said...

Definitely depressing story, sorry to hear that