Heard the one about the Slovenian who fell off a ladder?

August 8, 2014

It’s an ill wind, as they say, that blows no good.

Ready as Bankstone News will always be to participate in a hearty session of Eurocrat-directed aspersion casting, those sausage and cheese scoffing meddlers finally came up trumps this week with the promise of some much-needed new premium pounds for the UK motor market.

The European Court of Injustice is shortly due to rule on a case that could result in making motor cover mandatory for sit-on mowers and other such horticultural rides, even if they’re never used on public highways. The move could generate per-mower premiums of £100 and upwards for UK insurers: a welcome fillip in this era of depressed private vehicle purchasing.

It all started when some Slovenian geezer got toppled from his ladder by a tractor trailer, and sued. The defendant insurers denied liability because the toppling took placed on private property. Consternation ensued, precipitating a flurry of calls for loophole pluggage. Hence (in a roundabout way) new moves to mandate mower motor cover.

But insurance firms prompted to break out the bubbly at the prospect of all those new premiums may need to put that stuff on ice. In an act of staggering shortsightedness, Transport Secretary Patrick McGoohan has vowed to fight the move, commenting (indirectly) that “People have a right to cut the grass on private property” (and, presumably, knock the odd Slovene off his ladder while they’re at it), “without being clobbered for it.”

Will someone please induce this man to see some sense.

Motor insurance customers don’t just grow on trees you know!

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August 7, 2014

Oh, what brilliantly clever creatures we humans are! Animal behaviourists confirm that admiring one’s own reflected image, as dolphins, whales and higher primates do is (rather than attacking it, as cunning but stupid creatures such as cats do) is a sure sign of advanced intelligence.

Since the long-gone days when Narcissus spent so long gazing at his own bodacious visage mirrored in a silvan pool that he accidentally starved himself to death, humankind has shown an impressive interest in visually assisted self-contemplation.

But as, with each successive generation, we develop more and more impressive brain power and more impressive technological aids to the vital business of self contemplation, young people today have far surpassed all their forebears to achieve a level of self-imaging (and hence, by implication, intelligence) beyond the wildest dreams of Caligula, Liberace, or even Warren Beaty.

The taking and sharing of “selfies” allows today’s smart phone equipped teens to amass hundreds if not thousands of self-images every single day of their lovingly documented lives.

The point at which technologically enabled self-admiration become less indicative of intelligence, according to spoilsport motor manufacturers, insurers and the like, is when the brilliantly gifted self-admirer in question attempts to fix some fleetingly ravishing impression of themselves while simultaneously in charge of a moving motor vehicle.

Under such circumstances, do-gooding worrywarts suggest, the distraction inherent in so-called selfage (pronounced with a drawn-out “ah” sound, as in massage, décolletage, or Farage) can prove an impediment to the avoidance of RTA type situations.

Relying on this line of argument, tired old motor manufacturing outfit Ford this week attempted to impugn the intellect of young Brits by reporting research findings suggesting that UK-based young persons are more likely than their continental counterparts to indulge in selfage whilst at the wheel. An almost exact third of Brits (33%), Ford claim, admit having taken a selfie while driving, compared with Germans and Frenchies on 28%, Italians on just 26%, and Spaniards on a pitifully unself-aware 18%.

“Taking a ‘selfie’ is the last thing you should do behind the wheel of a car,” said Jim Grim, Ford’s Driving Skills for Life Manager, tactfully refraining from adding that, with acts of selfage distracting their combined subject/objects for up to 14 seconds each (the time it takes to travel 3.5 football pitches at a steady 60), it easily could be the last thing you do.

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August 1, 2014

Bankstone News is really struggling with Season 2 of Broker Apprentice, the reality-based comedy drama show from Insurance Age. Things seems to be shaping up nicely in Eps 1 and 2, only to go badly off the rails in Ep 3, which consisted (see most recent edition of BN) of the six contenders, split in to teams of three, shambling around Insurance Age’s offices looking for insurance hazards.

Sadly S2 E4 sees no improvement. Instead what we get is people sitting around in various office meeting rooms chuntering, baffling, blathering and bullshitting. The six are assigned a task (coming up with a product or a proposition that will attract new digital business to the broker channel) which few, if any, of them appear to have even partially understood.

One team are so hopelessly confused they eventually stop bandying aggressively competitive nonsensicalities and tramp off to ask Insurance Age’s Manu K “what was it exactly we were supposed to be doing?” The other team never quite reach this point, but end up, after an extended exchange of hollow-sounding business-speak platitudes, in danger as Manu describes it of “finding a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.”

The entire episode consists of people talking in the vaguest possible of terms about something they may or not be talking about (before an audience of brokers at an e-broking event) in the next episode.

Yes, some mildly entertaining banalities are uttered (Max talking about making everybody’s day that bit easier for example).

Yes, the simmering hatred and ill-suppressed eye-rolling rage exhibited at times by Natalie and Veronika is moderately diverting.

But there’s really far too little happening here to stretch out over 12 minutes and 32 seconds.

Save yourself unnecessary suffering/tedium and just watch the bit from 02.35 to 03.40 in which we see Natalie, Veronika and Will tying themselves in increasingly hostile knots as they struggle with their total incomprehension of the task assigned.

Unedifying would probably be the word.

How Zurich’s Pee-Wee Herman lookalike Gareth Honks can keep a straight face as he declares he has been “really impressed” by both teams is utterly beyond Bankstone News.

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Click on image above to view video.

August 1, 2014

The Government has invited UK cities to bid for the chance to bring Robotic Road Traffic Accidents (RRTAs) to their streets alongside the old fashioned human kind (HRTAs, as they will in future be known).

In just six months’ time up to three UK cities, Vince Cables announced earlier this week, will receive a share of a “massive” £10m cash handout in return for volunteering to have driverless vehicles careening around their roadways for between 18 and 36 months, or until the first child dies.

Cables cited the “excellence of our scientists and engineers” as more than ample justification for this exciting live experiment on the British public, which he hailed as a chance to position this country at the forefront of a “transformational technology” that will open up “new opportunities for our economy and society”.

Science Minsiter Greg Cluck noted that Britain’s “strengths in cars, satellites, big data and urban design” combine to make us “brilliantly placed” to see what happens when motor vehicles steer themselves.

The news may not be all good for traditional motor insurers however. In the short term things will get a bit confusing and contentious. Thereafter, assuming not too many RRTAs occur and the technology becomes established, the need for conventional motor insurance will ultimately evaporate.

The Financial Times reports that some insurers believe driverless cars pose an “existential threat” (perhaps something along the lines of ‘stop acting in bad faith or your life will be forever devoid of all meaning’) to their £16bn industry and quoting one industry source’s view that “driverless cars will ultimately mean the elimination of conventional motor insurance.”

If driver error ceases to be a factor in RTA causation, the third party element disappears and the chances are that motor insurance would switch from being a consumer retail sale to something taken out by motor manufacturers. Cue the demise of meerkats, nodding dogs, Wall-E lookalikes etc.

On the upside, all those newly time-rich former employees of the motor insurance and advertising sectors, will be able to pass any journeys they make more productively and creatively whilst floating round the country in the 0% finance robocars they splashed out on just before being laid-off.

Writing in Forbes Magazine, Tim Wartstool (no relation) extrapolates from here to suggest that once top execs – even those without chauffeurs – are able to work whilst on the road, the justification for expensive new rail projects like HS2 will similarly evaporate. So we can pull the plug on that one right now.

With driverless cars impervious to error, we can also lift the speed limit on our motorways to any speed said vehicles can achieve with a reasonable degree of mechanical dependability.

Better yet, Formula 1 teams will no longer have to worry about human pilots refusing to give way for teammates.

Yes, in future we will all be free to drive wherever we want, without even doing any driving.

Unless, of course, the robots get too smart and/or uppity and we end up in some kind of us-v-them dystopian scenario, possibly involving Will Smith.

In which case our cars will simply be dropping us off at the nearest slave camp or termination facility.

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August 1, 2014

If you’re looking for a really brigt idea, there’s really only one insurance place to go. Big yellow insurance company Uvavu have more staggeringly brilliant insights and conceptions than even they know what to do with. Their latest brainwave, unveiled this week, could save every car owner in the country a massive £32.

Yes, that’s three-two pounds. Thought that would get your attention! How does it work? It works like this.

Instead of paying “minor whiplash” victims money, insurers would simply fund some medical attention for them. That way, instead of compensating injured motorists and passengers for their supposed pain and suffering, they would simply be packed off to specialist medical care facilities who would sort them out in no time.

Not only would the move benefit policyholders by saving their insurers shedloads of money, but it would also act as a powerful deterrent to would-be whiplash fraudsters. Who, after all, would bother faking an accident simply to qualify for a couple of neck rub vouchers?

Even if – as many indeed suspect it is – whiplash isn’t an entirely fictitious condition, it is beyond question that the vast majority of UK claimants are simply trying it on. Why else would it be the case that, according to figures made up by Uvavu, whiplash claims account for 94% of PI claims in the UK compared with a mere 3% in France? Surely this cannot be solely attributable to the superior cervical robustitude of the Gallic race!

Other great ideas from the Uvavu idea factory include that of excluding personal injury lawyers from all cases where they are not adjudged to be”really needed”. Banning lawyers from introducing their high-maintenance noses into claims worth under £5k (in place of the current £1k exclusion zone) would save grateful motorists a further £11 on their annual policy costs.

This, plus the £32 from the neck rub voucher scheme, would add up to a massive £43 off the cost of your insurance or “12 months’ cover for the price of just 11” in some cases. Savings like these matter, says Uvavu GI chief Terrence Mollusc, because “motor insurance premiums are at the heart of the focus on the cost of living”.

How true. How very true. There they jolly well are, right at the very heart of the cost-of-living focus.

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August 1, 2014

Yet another unworthy attack on motor insurers’ right to earn an honest crust came this month from rabble-rousing people-power rag Witch? who claim in their latest issue that motor insurers are bringing in “sneaky” new charges to compensate themselves for having to charge less for their policies following HMG’s moves to outlaw whiplash and other personal injury claims.

Charges described by Witch? as sneaky and/or hidden include: surcharges of the odd couple of percentage points for paying premiums in full by credit card, fees of £50 for cancelling a policy early, fees of £30 for MTAs, fees of £30 for providing duplicate documents, fees of £20 for renewing a policy (so-called loyalty penalties), etc. etc.

Witch? accuses insurers of having “quietly been hiking up” such fees by as much as 200% over the past three years, singling out Endlessly for tripling the cost of cancelling a policy to £75, which surely is just a prudent way of discouraging policyholders from rocking the boat and cushioning the blow of any defection.

Witch? accuses Alcoholics Anonymous of the supposedly shocking crime of charging £28 to set up a motor insurance policy. So presumably insurance firms should simply accept people’s custom free of charge!

Motor insurance customers are particularly upset about all these new or inflated charges, Witch? alleges, because they are completely unaware of them. Many inhabit some kind of fool’s paradise, blithely rejoicing in plummeting premium costs, whilst little suspecting the barrage of sneaky hidden charges to which they are being subjected.

Richard Lloyd of Witch? says “people often don’t know what they’re really paying for” and are “fed up of” it.

The ABI’s Huge Saveloy countered by insisting that nobody is hiding anything and that insurers are simply “following regulatory requirements so any additional charges are clearly set out.”

Look – there they are on page 33.

Here, try my glasses.

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