Complaining corner

July 21, 2011

If there’s one thing this world could use a little more of, it surely has to be complaining. F-type bodies like the FSA, the FOS and the FSCS positively thrive on complaints and are dedicated to fostering and nurturing them.

Imagine the FSA’s consternation, then, upon discovering that financial services firms have been routinely binning complaint letters generated in bulk to standard templates via claims management companies.

Let’s face it, complaining is something we should all do more of. We all know that, of course. But, all too often, we Brits don’t make a fuss because we can’t be bothered, we’re afraid someone will spit in our food, or we’re naively unaware that we have anything to complain about.

Now that claims management companies are taking the initiative and lending members of the public a helping hand with their complaining, the FSA is keen to see the good work kept up.

The regulator has officially warned financial services firms that they must consider all customers’ complaints fairly – regardless of how they are made. Standard letters may not be balled-up, tossed aside, or otherwise disregarded. Sure, the complainant might not be that sincerely aggrieved. They might well not have bothered if a CMC hadn’t put them up to it. But now “Each complaint must be assessed on its merits, regardless of the process by which it was initiated,” warns the FSA’s implacably worded guidance note.

Sounds like TCF gone mad, if you ask Bankstone News.

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One of the things claims management companies have been encouraging people to complain about recently is missold PPI, for £50m’s worth of which it now seems insurance intermediaries will collectively pay, following the failure of PPI provider Wilmslow Financial Services in May, via the FSCS’s SBO2 insurance intermediation class, for which the annual levy has risen from £8.5m last year to £69.5m this and will now, no doubt, rise again next year.

July 20, 2011

What is it with these Eurossurers? First AXA, now Zurich are shamelessly staking out claims to extensive tracts of the insurance industry’s moral high ground, with the former recently banning feral fees altogether and latter sententiously stating this week that its TOBAs now require personal limes brokers to reveal any income they receive from such considerations.

With Britain’s beleaguered business ethics reputation still reeling from all that unfortunately publicity over certain ‘minor issues’ involving tabloids, MPs and policemen, it seems more than a little invidious for these oh-so-sanctimonious overseas insurers to be making a big deal of their high-minded indifference to a little extra filthy lucre.

But, as Insurance Times points out this week of AXA, “a decision to uphold referral fees could mean the French-based insurer misses out on a significant revenue stream, especially when it is expanding its personal lines motor book so aggressively through Swiftcover.” Yeah! That would teach them to get all high-hatish about things.

July 15, 2011

Want to feel good about yourself? It’s easier than you might think. Simply click on the JustGiving bit on the left down there, and donate generously to the outstandingly good cause that is: Yorkshire Air Ambulance.

Not only will it make you feel good, it could also help save someone’s life. Maybe even yours, should you ever come a cropper anywhere Yorkshireish.

It’ll make us feel better too about arseing around on monkeybikes for an entire weekend in ridiculous costumes – all for a measly £3825.85 (at the time of writing) raised for charity.

So come on, you know you want to – its a win-win-win scenario – or something!

July 15, 2011

The Daily Mail reported this week how one middle aged lady archivist mining Uvavu’s dusty Norwich archives has conclusively proved that, bizarrely, bizarreness didn’t begin with The Sun’s John Blake in 1982. No, people have been making bizarre insurance claims since, like, Victorian days, and that.

Wildly freakish claims found in the Uvavu archives include:

1878: Lancs grocer in Blind Man’s Buff tragedy paid £15.

1887: Rat bites farmer. Farmer gets £132. How weird is that!

1887: Cornish tailor sits down. Lands £58 after missing chair.

1892: Essex trader claims £50 for rice thrown in eye at wedding.

1910: Yarmouth man nets £1000 after swallowing fishbone.

Olden days generally: Many claim for discarded fruit slips. Relief as chewing gum invented.

Archivist Anna Stone has spent literally months fruitlessly searching for something half-interesting in the vast collection of “fascinating documents” stored in the Uvavu vaults. “It has certainly proved to be very interesting reading material,” Anna insists loyally.

Alongside the fruit slips, sports injuries are common, with many “golfers rupturing legs getting out of bunkers,” she invents shamelessly out of desparation. “Not to mention the clerk who received £36 for an injury caused by a blow from a fellow bather’s heel sustained while diving,” or indeed Anna’s favourites “the vicar who fell while playing a game of leap frog, or the gentleman who missed a dog while trying to kick it – and struck a sofa instead, injuring his big toe.”

Mail readers added their own comments online. “I am glad the man who tried to kick the dog missed,” says Lisa from Northampton. “I laughed when I saw that one,” she confides, eloquently attesting to how very hilarious indeed were the claims-related antics of those crazy Victoriedwardians.

Insurance claims handler Heather from Liverpool tries to get in on the act, but misses the point completely, with a modern-day claim that actually is a bit bizarre, citing “a guy who was “mauled” by a Badger and had £5,000 worth of designer clothes damaged.

Now that’s what Bankstone News calls bizarre!

July 15, 2011

The Coalition Government’s ongoing efforts to privatise key public services received a boost this week with the announcement that insurers have offered to fund a £9m police anti-fraud unit based in the City of London.

With the government determined to cut inessential services, this new ABI-sponsored initiative will keep 35 anti-fraud officers doing what they do best for the next three years at a cost of £2.9m a year.

They will work hand in hand with all their former colleagues who are now (directly) on the payrolls of Britain’s fraud-ravaged major insurers, who reckon around 5% of the claims they receive are now non-legit.

The ABI has long harboured concerns over police under-resourcing in the area of fraud. In its submission to the Fraud Review back in 2006, it noted that “criminal gangs with links to drugs and prostitution commit insurance fraud to fund their activities.”

Without wishing to impugn the legitimacy of such concerns, Bankstone News can’t help suspecting that if you need to subsidise your pimping and pushing activities with cash-for-crash income, you’re probably not doing it right.

The ABI has also suggested links between insurance fraud and terrorism. So in saving insurers an estimated £90m over three years, the new British Insurance Anti-Fraud Squad may also be helping to nip latterday homegrown Bin Ladens in the bud.

Hints from central government that insurers would pay out less in property damage claims if they would care to organise some chaps to go round putting out fires have thus far not been taken up.

July 15, 2011

OMG. It’s all kicking off. Big time. What with Gallagher gobbling up Heath and CBGB reportedly likely to be snapped up by a big boy, Insurance Times this week predicted a veritable maelstrom of “midsummer merger” madness. The scope for high-octane punch-packing hyperbolic speculation is quite literally mind-boggling.

Towergate, Giles and Bluefin have been “waving their cheque books for many months,” Times reports. Will Gallagher stop at Heath? Would Marsh maybe like to buy somebody? Who might get bought in a “near-mythical transformational deal?” Oval, perhaps, or the aforementioned Giles, if they’re not too busy waving cheque books. The respective honchos of the latter two firms, Chris Giles and Pip Hodson, are believed by Times – in a metaphor that folds alarmingly back in upon itself – to be “open to an exit.”

And now “controversial” Joe Henderson, Times reports, has “fired the starting gun on a race for his business.” Propelled by his merciless “take-no-prisoners style,” Henderson Insurance Brokers has become a “thriving business” that would make a “tidy prize” for any national broker, Times’ editorial lead proclaims.

In an exclusive interview, the eyebrow raising, straight talking, no nonsense, from-the-hip shooting, 59 year old Lancastrian, confirmed that he is “in no rush to sell the business yet.”

“It’s never been on the agenda,” he told the paper. “I really don’t know who we would sell to even now.” But apparently he’s quite interested in finding another business of a similar size and culture to “create a coming together with a view to a sale or IPO three to five years down the line.”

“We’ve never been aggressive at all,” he attempts to reassure a clearly skeptical Insurance Times. “If you talk in terms of aggression, some of the people out there now are doing some very naughty tricks. We’ve just been honest and got on with it.”

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July 14, 2011

Apparently satellite navigation systems may not actually be all that great, whereas atlases are really pretty super, Alcoholics Anonymous has announced.

Following exhaustive research among people who drive cars and so on, AA supremo King Edmund revealed exclusively to various papers this week that flawed directions from satnavs are a major worry because: “Many younger drivers are losing the skill to navigate on their own.”

Members of “the PlayStation generation, raised on computer games such as the X-Box” [or the Sony PlayStation, perhaps?] “and gadgets like the iPod and iPad have become too reliant on technology telling them what to do,” worries King Edmund, who clearly has an excellent grasp of gadget names.

“When they get into a car, they expect to be told where to go,” he notes solemnly, affording you, Dear Reader, an opportunity to supply an appropriately humorous punchline of your choosing.

OK, many of them have got satnavs – but what if they lead these clueless youngsters astray? Why, then they’re stuffed, basically. Couldn’t find their way out of a water slide, bless their cotton socks!

Sadly, only 30 per cent of motorists aged 18-24 have atlases – so they’ll probably stay lost for ever (unless they buy a copy of the AA’s recently published all-new 2012 driver’s atlas of Britain).

Older folks fare better. “Nine out of 10 drivers over 65 carry an atlas,” and some of them may even know how to use them, far outshining their younger couterparts in the AA’s “hi-tech tests.” Only problem is: “three-quarters admitted theirs were out of date.” So they could still end up getting lost (unless they buy a copy of the AA’s recently published all-new 2012 driver’s atlas of Britain).

Atlases are great, argues King Edmund: they show you the bigger picture – something that would certainly have helped the Swedish Couple (don’t worry the remainder of this sentence is perfectly decent) who, according to Daily Mail’s doyenne of old b*llocks Jam Moir, ended up 400 miles off course in industrial northern Italy because they keyed in Carpi instead of Capri.

If only they had bought a copy of the AA’s recently published all-new 2012 driver’s atlas of Britain and gone on holiday here instead.

July 8, 2011

Insurance Times pulled off another outrageous coup this week with an exclusive peak into the very soul of rabble-rousing man of the moment Jack Straw.

Why didn’t he do anything about referral fees when he was in government, IT enquired. I was aware of referral fees, Straw admits. Which is why he boldly endorsed the Jackson Review. But he hadn’t fully latched on to their “seamier side” as IT puts it, because “day-to-day responsibility for civil litigation issues were handled [sic] by ministerial underlings,” the paper says.

“I don’t remember any questions about it in parliament,” Straw said. “Had this been brought to my attention, I would have gripped it as a minister.” As anyone who has ever been gripped in a ministerial way will readily confirm, that would probably have sorted RFs out PDQ.

Responding to IT’s suggestion that new labour of old might have gone easy on RFs because they are a nice little earner for trade unions, Straw averred nonsensically that “Regardless of whether they are trade unions or claims management companies, they have the same responsibilities. I was absolutely clear about that.”

Straw goes on to slam the ABI for “not volunteering that their members were involved in the trading of people’s data” and sailing close to the wind. It is time for all insurers to just say no to referral fees, he claims. Any ‘backsliders’ (i.e. everyone other than AXA), he says should be “shamed into” turning down RFs. “They know the game has changed,” he slurs menacingly.

Insurers are decent and serious people, Straw says. That’s one way of putting it certainly. But he says they have been “sucked into a disreputable system and they need to get out quickly.”

Inaction is not an option the “puppyish” Straw told Times. “Every law-abiding person believes that the law needs to be changed,” he declared starkly. Presumably because they can’t abide it as it is.

Amazing to think that if it hadn’t been for all this News of the World business, people would still be talking about referral fees to this very day.

July 8, 2011

Congratulations to CIA chief exec Sandy Scott who this week clinched the Achievement Award at the British Albert Hall Awards. Scott becomes the oldest man with a fringe ever to scoop this coveted accolade and took the opportunity to bask in almost universal adulation at the Last Night of the Poms event hosted by newly affordable Jonathan Ross on Wednesday night.

Other winners on the night included all kinds of people with less memorably youthful hairstyles. Bankstone News’ pick of the bunch? Our very good friends at Provisional Marmalade, who won richly deserved recognition in the Personal Lines Broking Initiative of the Year category for their innovative standalone learner driver policy, beating off stiff challenges from X-box gamer’s friends Halo Insurance Services, three-pin specialists Pluginsure, and cake making diversifiers Towergate Bakers.

July 8, 2011

The long awaited day finally came and Bankstone’s merry band of monkey bike riding medieval men and women duly toured ten Yorkshire castles over two days raising money for Yorkshire Air Ambulance (YAA).

Confusingly, the heavens held off administering the soakings so familiar from previous years’ events and the sun shone serenely throughout. Sweltering under layers of leather and medieval over-clobber, some riders discerned a covert sadistic intent behind the elements’ apparent clemency.

A multifarious cast of knights, monks, damsels, jesters, kings, bears and highland warlords assembled at Bankstone’s Brighouse base and sped off to a well-wishing wave from YAA’s Kerry Garner.

With hearts and engines throbbing the cavalcade buzzed its way from Brighouse to Skipton, bemusing non-plussed pedestrians with a cacophany of bleetish horn tootings. With one bike stricken before take-off and a flat tyre picked up along the way, BLD’s support vehicle quickly proved its worth, enabling riders to hop from one steed to the next with alacrity.

Knaresborough town crier Simon Shaw joined the troupe at Skipton Castle and kept up a stentorian oratorical accompaniment at all subsequent stops. The energetic bucket shaking exploits of assorted Examworks and Bike Insurer wenchly types began working their way towards the weekend’s princely cash donation total of £193.55.

The longest leg of the journey saw the bikes wend up Wharfedale via Kilnsey Crags, Kettlewell, Burnsall and Buckden, past Aysgarth Falls to the stately fastness that is Bolton Castle.

Next came a short hop up the road to Middleham Castle, where some hasty snaps were taken beneath the ramparts whilst a pair of knights bravely held off shooing English Heritage retainers before the drawbridge.

Then it was back through Leyburn, along Wensleydale for a stealth attack on the doughty ramparts of the massive Richmond Castle. Only one hour behind schedule at this point, with 79 miles covered, the party’s thoughts began to turn to lunch.

Happily said repast awaited in Northallerton courtesy of Simon Bailes, where repairs were effected to one ailing monkey bike, allowing the town crier a chance to ride one of the spare bikes.

The first involuntary moving dismount of the trip occured en route to Helmsley Castle, with the bike coming off worse than the rider, who continued with an alternative mount. Another mechanical failure there relegated Bankstone’s Dickon Tysoe to the lead car.

Did the group next go to Pickering Castle? Yes and no. They went there,  certainly, or at least within a stone’s throw of it. But never quite arrived in the strictest geographical sense, due to a temporary road closure and the urgently distracting call of cold beer in Scarborough.

Arriving therein at sixish on Saturday evening, participants split up for the divers purposes of boozing, currying and marveling at the anti-climactic tedium of the Haye-Klitschko fight on the giant screens of the centrifugal social slaughterhouse that is the sticky-floored Scarborough casino.

Reassembling at 9am in front of the dread Grand Hotel, the party took an oddly circuitous route to the locked gates of Scarborough Castle via the cobble-topped seafront circuit.

Via a variety of routes, the party then proceeded to the picturesque privately-owned ruin that is Sheriff Hutton Castle, where the owners treated the monkey men to a distinctly exclusive private view.

Sunday lunch came courtesy of U-Pullit near well-known Viking showdown spot Stamford Bridge. Here, 220 miles into the trip, further repairs were carried out, crisps and soft drinks consumed and loins girded for the last few stops.

At next stop Knaresborough the party was greeted by the Mayor and the local Silver Band (brass not good enough for Knaresborough folk) and the crier whipped the assembled crowds into a frenzy of coin-tossing largesse.

A few miles up the road, Ripley Castle gave every impression of having been airdropped in from Tuscany. Unfazed, the monekybikers threw themselves into one final round of posing, then whisked themselves off back to the finish post in Brighouse, a mere 35 miles beyond.

Who could learn of such exploits without immediately and urgently wishing to donate with extreme generosity. Do not deny yourself, Gentle Sir or Madam. Click on the JustGiving thingy (above left) and play a part in keeping YAA saving lives and hopefully getting another season of Helicopter Heroes commissioned.

Want to take part next year, when Bankstone and friends will be doing something distinctly similar? Of course you do. There’s a date in the diary already. Simply email Chief Monkey Dickon Tysoe and you too could be living the Medieval Monkey dream for two glorious days next summer.

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Jo was friendly while still professional. She answered any questions and was patient and happy to help. Next steps and cover confirmation could have been a bit clearer. I've had calls from credit hire that I was expecting for replacement bike but they were pushing to do repairs. I was told this would be done by an approved repair. I called just after 9am to notify a claim and was told I would receive a call back within 10 to 15mins. I had to call back an hour later as no one had called back. The lady who answered, Jo, did deal with things straight away and was very helpful
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