Crash for cash claims boss gets five

December 17, 2008

A press release issued earlier this month by the Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB) reports the case of a claims manager sentenced to five years’ imprisonment at Bradford Crown Court. The jail sentence is the culmination of a joint initiative between the IFB and West Yorkshire Police codenamed Operation Keep. The proprietor of Autotransform Claims from Keighley West Yorkshire, his partner, an engineer and two claimants received a total of seven years three months imprisonment for defrauding insurance companies. West Yorkshire Police and the IFB launched an investigation in February 2007 after the latter identified suspicious claims being submitted to multiple insurers from the accident management company. Dawn raids in Keighley led to 22 arrests for conspiracy to defraud insurance companies. Fraudulent claims, false repairs and replacement hire cars were uncovered using sophisticated analytical tools and detailed forensic examinations. IFB Chairman John Beadle, Chairman commmented: “There is growing evidence to show that the proceeds from this type of fraud are used to fund other forms of serious crime including drugs trafficking and gun running.

The power of the IFB acting as a collective to represent the industry with law enforcement is demonstrating real results. We are seeing a growing appetite across regional police forces to work with the Bureau to pursue the fraudsters targeting our industry. The members of the IFB are determined to protect honest policy holders” Detective Sergeant Ben McDonald of Airedale and North Bradford CID, added: “This was an extremely complex and detailed investigation, one of the first of its kind for West Yorkshire involving officers from West Yorkshire Police, the Insurance Fraud Bureau, and the Ministry of Justice. We are pleased with the sentences today which send out a message that the activities of organised criminal gangs will not be tolerated in Keighley or anywhere else in Airedale and North Bradford. Members of the gang ring were involved in fraud on an industrial scale and this has been recognised in the sentences. Those who are tempted to engage in insurance fraud such as this should be warned that we will take robust action to find and prosecute them.”

December 12, 2008

A run of sensationalist stories on credit hire is giving the press something to talk about through the traditional pre-Christmas news lull. Anyone who heard the recent Moneybox “exposè” on Radio 4 will appreciate the extent to which credit hire is catching the imagination of the news-agenda setters. On 10 December Insurance Time’s Lauren MacGillivray reported on the “shadowy world of credit hire,” “a game without rules” worth £1bn annually where “anything goes.”

With growing levels of litigation over unpaid credit hire bills, the report says insurers are pitted against “operators who will stop at nothing to get their fee.” The report says credit hire adds £50 to every motor policy, citing “chief executives such as Andrew Torrance of Allianz” blaming credit hire for “denting this year’s results.” It goes on to conclude that the GTA is in danger of falling apart and that the ABI “wants to get rid of the responsibility of administrating the agreement.” NACHO secretary Barry Bromley blames a few bad apples for the industry’s PR problems: “The people who … are not members of either association (NACHO and AMA), some of their activities are disgusting and do the credit hire industry as a whole no good at all.” But the report questions whether “the bulk of the credit hire industry” is legitimate.

AXA’s Phil Rawlings casts doubt on industry representative’ suggestion that average hire claims for basic vehicles are about £1,400: “The Motor Insurance Bureau reported that a case of hire for £130,000 was recently submitted and rejected. Hire charges of £50,000 are frequent, and those up to £10,000 commonplace,” he says. A major bone of contention, MacGillivray claims, is the GTA’s provision that insurers must pay credit hire invoices within 30 days or face additional 7.5% surcharges at 60 and 90 days.

The AMA’s Tony Baker claims 38% of claims remain unpaid at 90 days, obliging credit hire firms to issue court proceedings. But, the report reports, insurers counterclaim that credit hire firms are “deliberately driving up penalty fees” by “stalling, or providing slipshod paperwork that requires further investigation.” Quoting Baker’s claims that “outstanding debt represents more than 50% of turnover for each operator and, in a credit crunch, this threatens companies’ survival,” the report concludes that “with the recession ramping up the pressure to drive down costs, this is one game that’s about to get dirty.”

December 9, 2008

Insurers will be able to recoup millions paid out on motor theft claims through the sale of vehicles recovered in the course of a major anti-fraud operation. So claims a recent news item penned by Insurance Times reporter Norman West. Police cracking down on car cloning, the story avers, have recovered 640 stolen vehicles on which insurers have paid out £6.4m in claims. No arrests, however, have yet been made. A batch of blank registration forms apparently went missing from the DVLA in 2006. These were subsequently filled out to match cars of the same colour and type being driven legitimately. Unsuspecting purchasers of the re-plated vehicles only discovered the fraud much later when the DVLA checked its database. Insurance Times quotes Detective Sergeant Mark Tidy of ACPO’s Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service saying: “We are looking at a highly organised criminal organisation. Some people are making a lot of money. We do not know how many documents are out there. This could go on and on.” The paper also quotes an RBSI spokesman adding: “We advise used car purchasers to validate vehicle provenance before they purchase the car. The DVLA can verify ownership for a few pounds.” Quite so.

December 9, 2008

At this year’s MCN Awards Ducati UK won both Manufacturer of the Year and Machine of the Year (the latter for its Desmosedici RR). The awards ceremony, hosted by TV’s Alan Davies at the National Motorcycle Museum in Birmingham on 27 November, also saw wins for Honda’s CBR1000RR Fireblade (Sports Bike of the Year) and Valentino Rossi (Man of the Year). Rossi couldn’t be there on the night. But, hey, Charley Boorman could! Desmosedici, of course, is Italian for not ’til you’re sixteen.

December 5, 2008

A press release from EurotaxGlass’s, publisher of Glass’s Guide to Used Motorcycles, claims shockingly that transaction prices for used motorcycles have fallen as retailers mount promotions aimed at offloading unwanted bikes.

Dealers are apparently dropping prices to make space in their showrooms for more saleable models and to release cash tied up in used bikes whose model type, style, or condition makes them less desirable. Glass’s Guide editor Randal Thomas commented: “Our sources within the trade indicate that large capacity supersports machines have been impacted most heavily, with dealers offering them at highly discounted rates to encourage sales.” He went on to say that “retailers are being particularly cautious as we enter a period of shorter days and the winter chill begins to bite. Cash-flow invariably turns negative and already tight resources are being put under the greatest pressure.” However, he concludes, “some of the machines retailers currently feel obliged to clear will be happily taken back into stock once the new season gets a little closer.” Where will it all end?

November 18, 2008

Bankstone staff hope to raise well over £400 for charity Children in Need following a quiz night and charity auction held on Friday 14th November. Each paid £1 to enter a 48-question quiz and a further 25p for each wrong answer. The winners qualify for an extra day’s paid leave in 2009. The auction included prizes as diverse as an iPod donated by a local recruitment firm, special guest tickets to a Huddersfield Giants Rugby League game, Maltese and Polish meals prepared by staff members, and a Bankstone director as your slave for the day. With £347.50 raised on the night, bidding continues for another week on many of the lots, so a record-breaking* £400 plus total is definitely on the cards.

*Last year’s inaugural Bankstone Children in Need fundraiser brought in £350.00.

November 12, 2008

Bankstone has brought in two high-profile figures from the motor accident management world to launch a new company Bankstone Advantage, with the specific aim of satisfying clients who demand a high standard of service combined with a core focus on cost control and managing vehicle utilisation.

Nick Williams and Phil Webb, who have nearly 40 years’ motor claims and accident management experience between them and previously worked together with a number of high profile accident management companies, will become co-directors along with Bankstone directors Andy Jones and Dickon Tysoe of a new Bankstone subsidiary, Bankstone Advantage.

Both will also become shareholders in the new venture. Bankstone director Andy Jones commented: “Bankstone is now well established in the motor claims management sector, so linking up with Phil and Nick was a logical progression for us as we extend our service offering. Obviously they both bring new skills, new contact networks, and their own excellent personal reputations to the table; but there is also a great deal of synergy between what we do and what they do. Bankstone Advantage will benefit from our well-developed infrastructure and service platform, and in particular from our powerful IT systems.”

Nick Williams added: “This is a fantastic opportunity for Phil and I. We share a common belief that clients should be able to access a service that exceeds both their expectations and goals from an accident or claims management service. Our knowledge of the industry coupled with the powerful technology platforms we have developed at Bankstone will allow our clients to achieve both.”

Phil Webb said: “During our time in this industry Nick and I have gained an extensive insight into the complexity of the market and how to make positive change. We have taken time to listen to and understand what clients and suppliers need from their accident management providers, and now we are in a position to deliver precisely that. In particular we are looking to deliver a flexible, proactive and responsive service together with our repairer networks and business partners.”

November 12, 2008

It’s an ill wind that blows no good… or something, as they say. There are early indications this week that harsher economic times are boosting bike sales.

Car sales have slumped by 23 per cent, but trade body the Motor Cycle Industry Association (MCI) reports that registrations of  powered two wheelers’ were up four per cent last month on the same month last year. 11,408 mopeds, scooters and motorcycles were registered in October, compared with 10,972 last time round. Bike Industry News quotes MCI acting chief executive Steve Kenward: “The motorcycle industry is not immune to the economic downturn, but the resilience of the market this year reinforces the fact that PTWs are more relevant than ever. As people look for ways to reduce the costs and hassles of travel, they are realising that motorcycles are an efficient, low cost option, and enable you to arrive with a smile on your face.”

November 12, 2008

Less than two years after entering the continental European market, Irish insurer Quinn confirmed to Insurance Times that it is to cease writing business in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. The news follows the resignation of founder chairman Sean Quinn who stepped down as chief executive after the Irish Financial Regulator imposed a €3.25m penalty on Quinn Insurance and fined him personally €200,000 for contravening obligations under the Insurance Acts and Regulations including “failure to notify the financial regulator prior to providing loans to related companies.” Commenting on Quinn retreat from mainland Europe, a company spokesman quoted in Insurance Times said “While the company made good progress in developing opportunities in Europe, given economic conditions, we feel we are unlikely to establish the necessary scale in the foreseeable future.” Commenting on his resignation, Sean Quinn says he accepts he made mistakes, believes the fine was disproportionate, and will now be spending more time with his family assets outside the group, in particular “our property portfolio, which is now active in 10 countries.”

November 12, 2008

AXA Insurance announced on Monday that it has launched a new personal lines intermediary motor product, AXA Car, targeted at the low-risk driver market.

The product combines comprehensive and TPFT cover with a new rating structure and rating factors that supposedly enable more accurate pricing ‚ leading to cheaper quotes for safer, low risk drivers. AXA claims the product also reflects its “drive towards redefining the standards of customer communication within the financial services industry” with a simplified policy wording. Hopefully that is a safe, low-risk drive towards redefining the standards of customer communication within the financial services industry. AXA is also promising an improved motor claims service with a new quality control system to ensure customers get “optimum service throughout their claim” and dedicated case handlers for every customer making a claim to update them on progress via SMS messages. The new product will be phased in over the next year to replace AXA’s existing PLI motor products Conwy and Premier 35.

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