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NOTES FROM BIG BEN …


Insurers,What Are They For? (Or an argument in favor of justifiable homicide?)


BY PETER GUEST I


BELIEVE THAT modern insurance started in Lloyds coffee house in London around 1690, when


people involved in shipping got together to share the risk of a ship being lost. Since then, the Insurance industry has grown into a multibillion-dollar indus- try whose main focus seems to be to screwme andmine.


Item 1: My daughter parked her


car; about 2 a.m., two guys came out of a club and proceeded to smash up eight cars, including hers, and two shop windows and were just starting a fire in a litter bin when the county mounties turned up and arrested them. No problem, she has insurance.Well, not quite. The insurers recovered her car to


their yard, which is halfway across the county. Cost of damage, £2.000; their valuation on the car, £1,000 – so it’s a write-off and here’s your £1,000.Hang on a minute; they broke the front and rear screens, ripped off a mirror, and scratched the paint.The car is 14 years old; we can put up with a few scratch- es.We asked the insurers: Can we buy the car back (£87) and carry out the repairs ourselves? A reluctant yes, but “since we


have written it off, you have to tow it back to your repairer (£120).” And when it’s fixed, you have to repeat the annual test (done two weeks ago (another £50) and take it to a govern- ment-approved center for a vehicle identity check tomake sure that you’re not trying to pass off another car using the wrong identity (that’s about £90). So that’s £347 gone from our £1,000 before we start. The new screens are about £450,


plus the fixing costs, and there goes the thousand, which is actually £750 because we forgot the claim excess. Take off the excess costs that we would not have to pay if they had taken it to the local garage and talked to us but


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Day two, he shows me where the ban- dito who installed it included a free leak in the shower, which has rotted the joists. No problem, I have insur- ance. I call up the insurers, who send someone to assess the damage. This “technical expert” would have found a screwdriver a technical challenge. At first he “can’t see a problem,”


even though therewaswet rotten tim- ber about 6 inches from his nose. Fortunately, my builder and the builder he had brought to check out my guy’s assessment of the problem spoke the same language, and they had pretty soon agreed what had to be done, rather contemptuously ignoring the guy with the shiny shoes and blank expression. Problem was, they would have to


rip off the entire floor covering to lift the floor boards to fix the joists, so the costs would run into thousands of pounds. Not our problem, say the insurers:Yes, you are covered against water damage, but this isn’t water damage; it’s poor workmanship, which isn’t covered. Result? I get a bill for several thousand pounds and the right to sue a builder that is long gone and untraceable. Item3:My car insurance is due; I


The Insurance industry has grown into a multibillion-dollar industry whose main focus seems to be to screw me and mine.


no, we’re screwed. Daughter has the wife’s car and I am £9k in the hole to get “she who must be obeyed” a new set of wheels. Item 2: The man is in to refurb my


bathroom; he’s a good old boy who does a thorough job and doesn’t rip me off.


JULY 2010 • PARKING TODAY • www.parkingtoday.com


can renewit online and save £10.Well, no, I can’t, because the bloody web page won’t go any further than agree- ing that I am who I say I am and that, yes, I want to renew my insurance. I try for two days, and here’s an interest- ing thing.According to the advert on the web page, if I start a new policy, I can get two months free or about 17% off. So option (a) a loyal customerwho has been with you for many years can save £10 but can’t because the web page isn’t working; or option (b) you can insure the car from new and save about £50. I decided to call the insurers and


discuss this. I call the number and it’s a voice-recognition robot, which doesn’t have as an option: “Iwant to askwhy are you rippingme off?”Hang up, get a cof- fee, have some therapy and try again. I’ve got it sussed: Ignore the robot or


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