Women are from vehicles. Men are from cars.

January 15, 2013

As predicted, the implementation of the European Court of Juice’s Gander Directive has thrown the motor insurance market into turmoil.

According to the latest figures from MonkeySupermarket (a useful indicator until we get the full picture from the number crunchers over at Tiger.co.uk), ladies’ motor premiums have soared by a massive -1.9%. And that after they had already risen by -10% during 2012.

Young women in particular are said to be paying a bit more for their car insurance, whilst young men are actually paying a bit less! The gap between how much male and female drivers aged 17-19 pay has shrunk dramatically and now stands at a mere £1,000 or thereabouts.

This sudden leap in insurance costs has prompted many young women to stop driving, grow beards, or even – shockingly – to get married. Strange but true. Being married can slash your motor insurance premiums by as much as, ooh, lots, probably!

In their panicked search for sex surrogates, insurers seized – amongst other things on marital status. Clearly there is a high risk (possibly as high as 50/50) that unmarried drivers may be young men. Married people are more likely to be either women (good) or older males (not as bad as young ones). It’s genius, really isn’t it!

“The UK car insurance market is one of the most sophisticated in the world,” observes Peter Hérisson of MonkeySupermarket, “with insurers using other factors other than gender to calculate premiums.”

This is undoubtedly true. Hérisson’s double ‘other’ is entirely apposite, although whether gender (discriminatory) is as ‘other’ as marriage (assimilative) is arguably a moot point.

Safe to say, at least, that it’s never a bad idea to ask someone whether they’re married – unless you can see one of those tell-tale ring-shaped indentations on their otherwise naked second smallest left hand finger, in which case, maybe don’t.

So, as young single ladies watch helplessly while their premiums soar by as much as 10 or even 17%, one is bound to ask: who would be a young woman today?

Actually, Bankstone News would be prepared to try it for a day or two – just out of scientific curiosity, obviously. But clearly it would be no picnic paying just £1k less than young males for your motor insurance.

But thankfully Garth Klot, Head of Car Insurance at Confusing.com has some valuable advice for young women faced with rising premiums. The answer he believes could be for them to ‘shop around’. This sounds reasonable, enough, but how should they go about this? Sadly, Mr Klot is frustratingly vague on this point.

Listen to the audio file here: women-are-from-vehicles

January 11, 2013

OK, we don’t normally do this sort of thing, but frankly Bankstone News has no idea what else to write about this week… So brace yourselves, stand back – you might even want to put some ear plugs in – we are about to blow our own trumpet. Or, more precisely, we are about to blow the trumpet of our beloved parent (does that sound wrong?) Bankstone Ltd.

Every week Bankstone is literally bombarded with fulsome plaudits of one kind or another on its literally peerless handling of clients’ inbound claims calls. Customer satisfaction score cards come back marked with an interminable tedium of serried wall-to-wall 10s (that’s 10 out of 10, by the way, where ten is utterly marvelous and 1 is total sh1te).

The anecdotal bits read just as pleasingly, of course. This very week for example – which is what made us think of including this shameful piece of puffery, obviously enough – one Bankstone client forwarded this charming bit of feedback which kind of illustrates the point:

I rang regarding an accident in which I was involved in. The staff where very friendly and helpful. I am very pleased (and even a little surprised) at how quickly every one responded to my initial call and how much has been done so far. I have subsequently recommended [client name] to several friends.

So there you have it – how to get new customers without advertising (see separate story) get Bankstone in to “professionally handle” your claims!

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.

January 11, 2013

There’s a storm a-coming, predicts Johan van der Meerkat of telematics insurer Coveryourbox. By the time, it hits these shores a couple of months from now, it looks set to have become the ‘perfect storm’.

A perfect storm, for anyone who didn’t see the movie, is when everything that can go wrong does go wrong and anyone who gets in its way is basically up the proverbial ship creek without a whisker of a cat’s prayer in a frozen-over hell type of thing.

“The mayhem will kick off in March,” van der Meerkat claims, when literally thousands of women rush out to buy small hatchbacks and convertibles at bargain basement prices. This will inevitably trigger a tsunami of fury over insurers’ EU-enforced attempts to make them pay the same as men for their car insurance.

Mayhem, for anyone not from Glasgow, refers either to the willful maiming or crippling of one or more persons or to a general state of violent disorder. By freakish coincidence, lady drivers will all be seeking new annual insurance deals on their hatchbacks and convertibles at precisely the same moment when the EU Gander Directive will been around for a couple of months having rather less effect than predicted. This fatal combination of factors looks set to trigger motor market carnage on a previously unimaginable scale.

Hell hath no fury – to paraphrase slightly – like a bunch of women forced to pay more for their car insurance – and there’s really no telling how bad things could get. The nightmare scenario conjured up by Coveryourbox’s van der Meerkat is that these irate females will succumb en masse to the sinister allure of spy-in-the-cab insurers who seek to reel them in with their siren call of ‘lower premiums for careful drivers’.

Insurers who cling to the traditional ‘blind’ insurance model – where you pool everyone in together to offer affordable premiums to all – had better prepare themselves for the coming meteorogical cataclysm, van der Meerkat warns. It’s going to be sudden and it’s going to be brutal. And then, when the storm winds subside, we’ll be one giant leap closer to a Big Brother world of insurables and uninsurables.

Don’t say you haven’t been warned!

January 10, 2013

Following up on all that confusing stuff from last week’s issue about the government wanting to pay lawyers less for going through portholes or whatever, there’s been a flurry of carping in the press, with various legal people voicing unattractively shrill alarm at the prospect of losing all incentive for getting out of bed in the morning.

In a nutshell, HMG have decided lawyers are getting £700 more than they could possibly need to pass things through portholes. The basic idea is that – even if they wanted to – lawyers can’t pay referral fees any more because they are getting banned (the fees, not the lawyers – although, watch this space!) so their costs have dropped by £700, so they can afford to do the work for £500 instead of £1200 – or something like that.

But now cynically self-serving law persons are quibbling that if they weren’t paying referral fees or doing something else equally expensive – like advertising – to attract clients they would have no work and hence be in no position to earn £500, or any other amount of money for that matter, for bunging things through a porthole.

The so-called Law Society recently surveyed all of its members who “conduct” personal injury “work” and reported that 68% of them paid referral fees to get hold of cases and 83% paid something called “other marketing costs”, with the scurrilous implication that PI cases don’t just walk in the door of their own accord.

So what if law firms get paid less to handle PI work! How much knowledge and skill does it really take to shuffle a few bits of paper around and lob the odd thing through a porthole? Get the tea boy to do it, for goodness sake! Better yet, leave the claimant lawyers out of it and let insurers handle things direct.

But perhaps some good may eventually come of all this unedifying whining. In its quest to safeguard its members’ licence to siphon off insurers’ cash in vampirically vast quantities, the Association of Personal Iniquity Lawyers (APIL) appears to have stumbled upon the germ of a potentially brilliant idea.

“If the logic of the Government’s belief as to the effect of the abolition of referral fees on insurance premiums,” a semi-coherent APIL spokesperson blathered, “were applied to the insurers themselves, the Government should make it illegal for insurers to advertise for customers thus saving them a considerable cost which would be reflected in lower premiums.”

You might question APIL’s motives for raising this issue – but just imagine how much better a world we would live in if school children still thought Churchill was a wartime prime minister, if we’d never heard the chirpy electro-fanfare that accompanies that annoying red telephone on wheels, or heard that tit carp on about quoting people happy. Extend the ban to aggregators and we’d be rid of Gio Compario at a stroke – without the need for further (ineffective) intervention by (minor) celebrity assassins – not to mention that meerkat.

Imagine how much more money insurers would be making (i.e. how much cheaper premiums would be) if they weren’t allowed to advertise. In fact, let’s ban advertising altogether and get back to good old fashion word of mouth. Sign our petition here.

January 4, 2013

Avid watchers of the Medieval Monkeys totaliser (below left) may have noticed that the total raised towards funding another day’s flying for one of the YAA’s lifesaving choppers has leapt up from 91% to a princely 92% over the Christmas period. This leap is attributable almost entirely to the sterling efforts of the Bankstone HQ team, literally several of whom dressed up in onesies to raise much needed extra funding for those Helicopter Heroes. No further images of this event, sadly, will now be published in these pages in view of the potential shock and offence they might cause to readers of a more sensible disposition.

Perhaps you might wish to contribute a few of your own e-pounds in the interests of putting us out of our misery and allowing us to start this year’s fundraising with a nice clean 0% again? Simply click on the JustGiving thingy (below left, as previously mentioned) a get giving.

Many thanks, also, to all those readers who didn’t enter our pre-Christmas round-up some new subscribers competition. Thanks to your outstanding and uniform indolence, Bankstone News had the unalloyed pleasure of feeding its pug-ugly face indecently full of all manner of exotic and delicious provender from the Fortnum’s hamper at which all you doubting Thomases and Thomasina’s turned your no doubt charming and elegantly formed noses.

All you would have had to do was rustle up a single new reader and that pleasure could have been yours. Bet you feel pretty sick now! Although possibly not as sick as Bankstone News felt after too-rapidly ingesting a palpable surfeit of foie gras, Sauternes, caviar, brandy snaps, Stilton and stuffed dates.

Happy New Year, by the way. and look out for more easily ignorable competitions in the coming months.

January 4, 2013

No mere suburb to nearby London, Croydon is a gleaming high-rise mini-metropolis in its own right, a thriving hub of white collar industry across sectors as diverse as property, financial services and photocopier repair. Recently named as one of the dozen ‘Pertass Pilate” towns handpicked by Mary ‘Queen of Shots’ Pertass for fast-track greenhousing, Croydon continues to shoot up, with planning permission already in place for towering new edifices such as One Lambsdown Road, the world’s tallest ever UK block of flats, and future architectural acorn the Mental Tower.

The town’s humble origins belie its current status as a Mecca for business, a town of just a few hundred inhabitants at the time of the Norman Conquest, it went on to acquire a near legendary reputation for the skill of its charcoal burners, brewers, tanners and felchers – subsequently branching out into car making, metal work and casual hooliganism, and at one time boasting its very own airport (now serving the community as a giant cash and carry and a soft play centre). As well as spawning Kate Moss, Dane Bowers and Roy Hodgson, the town has its very own signature hairstyle, the famously severe Croydon Facelift.

Emerald House a charming cross-shaped block and podium slab of discretely scaled office space dating from the modern era, offers a range of recently updated and refurbished spaces at competitive rates available for immediate occupation. Extensively refitted in an attempt at ‘putting a new sparkle into a Croydon gem’, Emerald House now boasts, according to its marketing web site, “a stunning new interior designed, spacious, business lounge reception area with seating and plasma screens.” The perfect place (in the perfect urban borough), you might have thought in which to base your 105-strong mid-market trading and UK mid-market insurance operations.

But not, it seems, if you are the Republic of South Africa. Strangely blind to the manifold charms of Croydon, RSA has just announced plans to shut up shop before a new wave of riots flares up in the unbearable stifling heat of downtown Croydon this summer and shift its mid-market trading and UK mid-market operations, BBC-style, to Manchester (a much overrated Northern conurbation on the wrong side of the Pennines). Yes, a spokesperson confirmed, lots of people will, sadly, lose their jobs or be relocated to the Birthplace of Baggy. But, no, brokers and customers will never notice the difference. So, not to worry.

January 3, 2013

As if any further evidence were required that some of Britain’s most fecund creative minds are currently focused on the concoction and elaboration of ever-more inventive and far-fetched fictional motor accidents, Bankstone News was astonished and impressed this week to learn how the peerlessly fertile imagination of one Michael Rejoinder Singh gave rise back in 2010 to a complex and inventive tale of motor accident misfortune fit to administer the most forceful of tugs to both the heart and purse strings of even the most adamant insurance office.

Starting with a virtually blank slate, Singh had the extraordinary vision to conjure up a startlingly vivid evocation of motor mayhem in which his vehicle collided with another driven by a certain Rudzam Didzus, resulting in a comprehensive catalogue of insured damage, expense and injury, including, according to a press release issued by insurer L=V, medical treatment for ‘personal injuries’ sustained by the two supposed drivers and five fictitious passengers, extensive vehicle repairs, credit hire and storage costs, and third party legal costs, amounting in total to somewhere in the region of £120,000.

Sadly, L>V=’s dodgy claims unit failed to appreciate Singh’s creative artistry and opted for a more prosaic approach. The insurer marked down the Doncaster man’s funding application on the grounds of its excessive fictionality and its notable divergence from any narrative trajectory reasonably compatible with the pattern of damage to Mr Singh’s vehicle. Some might argue that the insurer’s blunt assertion that ‘the accident never happened’ rather misses the point. Nevertheless, the claim was rejected, prompting its aggrieved creator to sue L=> for the recovery of his costs.

Some might argue that Mr S deserved credit for the sheer audacity of this move. Sheffield County Court did not. It dismissed Singh’s claim. Intent on making a point, L=> decided to take further legal proceedings against Singh in the interests of deterring similar inventiveness on the part of other would-be motor insurance claimants. This duly resulted in the unfortunate Singh being sentenced to eight months’ enforced custodial contemplation at the sovereign’s pleasure for the double crime of making things up and wasting the court’s valuable time.

Sometimes, it really is better just to tell it like it is. That’s certainly the philosophy we espouse here at Bankstone News.

January 2, 2013

Apparently when Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling announced last year that the RTA Porthole would be extended to encompass higher-value motor and employer’s and public liabilty claims as of April Fool’s Day this year, he climbed up on something to do so. It may have been a pedestal, a high horse, or even a mountain for all Bankstone News knows. But wherever he climbed, he has now been obliged to climb back down to make the not-altogether-unexpected announcement that the RTA Porthole will not be extended to encompass higher-value motor and employer’s and public liability claims as of April Fool’s Day this year.

In the wake of the aforementioned climb-down, various persons have piled in to applaud the good sense of Graything’s timely concession to the dictates of reality and legality. Bud Craigsworth of MASS applauded Grayling’s enlightened decision to eschew a “headlong rush” to “radical changes to the landscape” adding that the decision had left MASS “pleased”. Meanwhile, Karl “Honky” Tonks of APIL also applauded the move, pointing out that his organisation had said all along that “proper consideration of key issues was being sacrificed in favour of an impractical ambition to introduce extensions to the RTA portal by April” 2013.

Many argue, however, that Grayling would do well to apply his new-found skills in the art of descent to the issue of the proposed reduction of Porthole fees by 60%. That, indeed, is precisely what Litigation Futures editor Neil Rose argues in an article published earlier today. In particular Mr Rose takes cogent issue with the MoJ’s refusal to reveal the basis of its financial calculations. This, he describes as “so patently outrageous that surely Mr Grayling would have to abolish judicial review altogether to save it from another challenge” along similar lines to that mounted by APIL and MASS over his failure to consult on the Porthole extension.

Silence on this issue invites the inevitable suspicion that the proposed 60% chop might simply have been slipped to Grayling on the back of an envelope or something by some optimistic representative of a major insurers’ representative body. A marginally less sinister interpretation hypothesised by Mr Rose is that “an official at the MoJ simply subtracted what they reckoned is an average referral payment of £700 from the current £1,200, and hey presto you have a new portal fee. One hopes it was more sophisticated than this – referral fees weren’t built into the original calculation, while some allowance should be made for marketing costs – but absent any explanation from the MoJ, one cannot help but suspect it wasn’t.”

So coy is the Government on the issue of where it got its figures, that it is resisting a freedom of information request on the grounds that the requested info relates to the formation of Government policy and is therefore not something mere mortals need be aprised of. “If it is to retain any credibility,” Rose concludes, the MoJ “must publish now, and give time for stakeholders to examine and comment on its methods, before announcing its final decision.”

If you have concerns about the proposed changes, you might want to consider signing this: e-petition on the Government’s Proposal on Fixed Recoverable Costs in Personal-Injury Matters


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