January 11, 2013

Comment surrounding the controversial Channel 4 Dispatches documentary Secrets of Your Car Insurance which aired this week, has elicited a furious reaction. Insurers’ fervent denials that they are maximising profits at the expense of their customers have incensed shareholders, who are now demanding that the industry stops fannying about and does more to extract cash from its customers and suppliers.

Investors have expressed dismay at insurers’ public insistence that their overriding concern is with quality of service and that the only reason for keeping a tight rein on repair costs is so that the savings can be passed on to consumers in the form of lower premiums. “Where has all this investment in supply chain management got us,” one investor demanded to know, “if policyholders are still effectively free to use a repairer of their choice?”

Dispatches presenter Harry Walloper revealed damning evidence in the form of a car door (see below) on which an analyst has scrawled a searing indictment of insurers’ pitiful efforts to generate additional revenue to supplement their miserably over-competitive premiums – all of which are currently being paid out to crash for cash gangs and over-paid law firms. Paint job rebates were revealed as netting a miserable £115m per year, and parts rebates just £105m compared with £10.7bn in premiums (see above).

Insurer body The ABI added fuel to the flames with the incendiary assertion that – as Insurance Times reported this week – insurers’ priority “at every stage of the repair process was that the customer – whether their own policyholder or a third party – got the best possible repair as quickly as possible…” Responding to allegations that insurers have an unhealthy relationship with repairers, an ABI spokesbeing admitted that insurers wanted to have a “good working relationship” with body repair businesses – but insisted that they certainly do not want ‘to squeeze’ them.

Hinting in a jaunty fashion that a squeeze might not be entirely out of the question, Mr Bernard Lobba-Lobba of Lewisham-based repair shop Winier Body, offered support to insurers’ cause insisting that discussions with insurers focused 110% on price. He went on the reveal, however, that this was only because quality was a given. “My customers are always surprised and delighted,” Mr Lobba-Lobba insisted. “They call me Mr Bombastic, say me fantastic,” he averred referring to recent customer feedback.

So the riddle persists: how exactly are car insurers ever going to make any money? Perhaps the time has come to have a word with some friends in high places.


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