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Warning about insurance procedures

Don’t be afraid to challenge insurance company procedures! If you feel someone has made a mistake they probably have. Xmas 2013 we sort of forgot a candle was burning! Luckily before it burnt the house down it only burnt through the table burning a couple of holes and scorching it in other places. I telephoned the Liverpool  and Victoria insurance company to request a claim form and was told that I would have to pay the £150 excess to the loss adjustor when he arrived. I don’t think so! As this was a customer service representative I decided to write to the CEO (contact details for all CEOs at ceoemail.com) of the insurance company. So the correspondence went as follows:

23/01/14 emailed CEO informed him that we had been told that an Assessor would come and we would have to pay a cheque for £150 and this would be deducted from the amount paid out. Said what an appalling, outrageous and unfair system it appeared to be. We offered to send photos but this was declined. How on earth is anyone meant to make a decision about whether it is worth paying the excess and an increase in future premiums? You could look at the photos and give some indication, but this had been refused. Mentioned the Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 as believed this to be an unfair commercial practice, misleading the consumer as to what they can expect. I attached the photos that were deemed unnecessary. “You may send an Assessor and deduct the excess from the settlement should we choose to take it” said I. Threatened the ombudsman and Small Claims Court. Did the trick.

24/01/14 response from someone in the CEO’s team stating that he would like to arrange an inspection of the table by their contractor’s Independent Inspections to see if the table can be restored. Offered us opportunity to arrange a report ourselves for which they would pay. Apologised that I was told I would need to pay the excess in the first instance, this should only be applied to a settlement.

28/01/14 emailed to say I had contacted restorers who said that just by looking at the photos they can see that the table is beyond repair and the quote for providing a report with details of how much it would cost to replace will be £35 plus VAT. I reiterated that I was categorically told that the cheque had to be paid before we agreed to settle. This was queried several times because it sounded so ludicrous. The customer services representative was adamant that the cheque had to be paid to the assessor and asked why this was. He clearly thought that this was the correct procedure so I was quite sure that this was not the first time it has been done and saw no reason why I should not take the matter further and expected redress for the inconvenience caused.


28/01/14 response to say go ahead with quote and that he would listen to the call and get back to me.

29/01/14 further email to say that I was correct and I had been advised as I said I had been! Oh whoopee do! Should I be pleased that they decided I wasn’t a liar?! He had discussed the matter with the handler and apparently there was some confusion. With building repairs, they would expect their contractors to arrange to collect an excess before carrying out repairs but this would usually be after they had inspected damage and assessed the approximate costs. The handler was informed of the error and a significant misunderstanding about the claims process was put right. How you confuse a building with a table I am unsure. The report was accepted I settled and took the £25 goodwill gesture for the inconvenience.

Insurance can be a minefield, whether house, vehicles or health! Most people have a story to tell. Don’t forget to use the tips on here for complaining and insurance is well covered in the book!

If you want to contact Liverpool and Victoria insurance company CEO you can do so here.

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Government hushes up critical consumer and trading standards reports

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has recently released two reports: “Consumer Empowerment Survey Report” and “The Impact of Local Authority Trading Standards in Challenging Times“. Neither report was given any press announcement or further comment from BIS ministers or other staff.

Consumer Empowerment Survey Report

This 95 page research study, carried out by GfK NOP Social Research, was designed to gain a better understanding of the attitudes of groups of consumers, and to build a stronger picture about their characteristics and engagement levels: particularly those consumers in vulnerable situations and/or on low incomes.

This report was finalised on the 15th March but not released by government until the 18th March. This was Budget Day. The report was given no press release or other coverage.

The report states that “…the market also requires empowered, active and informed consumers in order to flourish. Only then will the full benefits of competition – which include lower prices, greater innovation, efficiency and growth – be unlocked.

There is strong evidence that many consumers do not engage fully in their transactions;….. Whatever the barrier, it is the least engaged groups of consumers that are likely to miss out on the best deals, overpay for basic services, or even get ripped off”.

The report found that 57% of those surveyed said they felt very confident about making complaints post-purchase, but that only 32% were confident that the law would protect them.

A recent survey showed that fewer than 45% of people in the UK use their consumer rights and that only 7% said they know their legal rights well and use them regularly.

I’m not surprised by these findings of course, People frequently ask me about their legal rights, sometimes having heard of the Sale and Supply of Goods Act and may even know that items have to be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and last a reasonable length of time. But they have no idea how long “a reasonable length of time” is, or if they are entitled to a full refund or just a repair for example.

All these surveys and evidence show that a minority of the public know and assert their legal rights. People also cite time and effort as factors too. It takes more time and effort than it should, often because companies fob off the customer, so even the customers who have a passing knowledge of the Law don’t get the redress they are legally owed. Evidenced last week, when someone on Twitter was having trouble with a certain electrical goods retailer and their line on refund, repairs and replacement policy. When I joined in the conversation to help, the retailer blocked me! But Go to AO.com that’s what I say. Price match and if something goes wrong they deal with it properly and don’t try and fob you off. High praise indeed from me, yes!

The Impact of Local Authority Trading Standards in Challenging Times

The second report, “The Impact of Local Authority Trading Standards in Challenging Times” is dated February 2015, is 145 pages long has 6 recommendations and was released on the 20th March, again with little to no coverage.

The report explored the impact of budget cuts to local trading standards and tested the efficiency of services across the country. It said that changes had led to “a relatively weak, and probably diminishing, profile of trading standards, both within the public eye and within the local authority context.”

The loss of skills, knowledge expertise and the diminishing of these services in protecting consumers can only mean one thing. Increase in bad practice and decrease in protection for the consumer. The report even talks about staff who, in their own time carry out investigations because they feel it so important. Yet again the government relying on people’s good well to provide good services because decent people feel they have to do the extra. If they were treated better perhaps they would do more because they wanted rather than felt they had to. Bet that sounds familiar to NHS staff.

Timings 

It is incredible that the government commissions, at great expense these two reports and then appears to ignore them. One shows how little people know about their consumer rights and the other discusses the impact of cuts in Trading Standards, the reduction in inspections and support for the consumer with increasing bad practices in companies as Trading Standards struggles to undertake the necessary proactive work.