FCA declares war on loyal customer abuse

October 10, 2019

Ripping off policyholders who neglect to change insurer every year is a bit like smoking crack cocaine. That’s the view of Ian Huge, CEO of data analytics company Consumer Intelligence. And you’d assume he knows what he’s talking about.

The problem with crack cocaine, it seems, is that, once you’ve developed a taste for the crystalline off-white powder, it’s hard to kick the habit. Huge reckons quoting low to switchers while fleecing loyal customers has a lot in common with use of the infamous rock candy.

Or maybe so-called ‘dual pricing’ is more like taking performance-enhancing drugs. Athletes know they shouldn’t really dabble, but they look around, see everyone else doing it, and conclude – not unreasonably – that they’ll never compete and win if they’re the first to go clean.

It’s been going on for years, of course. Price comparison sites like Compario the Monkey Super Meerkat have been urging punters to shop around more or less since time began. But we can’t blame them entirely for our tendency to focus on price. That’s natural enough in a world where money doesn’t grow on trees.

It has recently come to the notice of regulatory ‘body’ the FCA that the interests of motor and household policyholders are perhaps not being best served by the industry as it is currently constituted. Penalising loyalty, the FCA has now suspects, might be a bad thing.

Naturally enough, the regulator’s plans to grasp and neutralise the dual pricing nettle again tend to focus on price. Cold turkey type solutions like outlawing dual pricing altogether or banning automatic policy renewals have startled and alarmed insurance folk.

But if insurance providers now urge caution on the regulator’s part, it’s not just because they’re pathetic sweaty addicts, quaking at the proposed denial of their latest fix. It’s partly, at least, because they’re starry-eyed idealists dreaming of a world where insurance isn’t all about price.

An unnamed broker, quoted in industry journal Insurance Rage this week, warned against anything that might ‘encourage people to shop around based only on price without taking account of value and service’. Presumably the fear is that the FCA’s well-meaning attempts to stop less fickle policyholders paying more might simply exacerbate our obsessive preoccupation with paying as little as possible.

‘Just moving for the sake of saving a few pounds without looking at the other elements of the offer,’ the anonymous broker warned starkly, ‘may be counterproductive.’ And, let’s face it, counterproduction is the last thing the insurance sector needs right now.

Insurers too are gravely concerned that the denial of their drug of choice might have unintended consequences. Banning automatic renewal might prompt customers to save themselves from loyalty abuse, but according to one insurer spokesperson, it could also result in the loss the ‘vital and often legal protection’ their policies provide, should they fail to replace lapsing cover.

Similarly, taking action against dual pricing could accidentally ‘stifle competition and innovation’ which would surely be akin to jettisoning a particularly precious baby along with some not especially dirty, and actually still quite warm, bathwater. Also, another insurer has queried, what chance would there be for new entrants in a market where they couldn’t dangle cut-price premiums in front of future fleecees.

It’s a fair point, Bankstone News feels sure you’ll agree, and one the regulator will hopefully bear in mind when it decides it’s all too complicated and leaves a grateful industry in peace.

Churchie says chill

October 10, 2019

Bromley-based Direct Lime offshoot Churchill has done something a bit weird. Its nodding-dog avatar has been reincarnated as what appears to be a living, breathing, skateboarding bulldog, but is in fact a CGI facsimile.

If you haven’t already had the pleasure, you can catch the old dog up to its new tricks here.

Gone is the relentlessly positive affirmation of the canine’s previous persona. In comes something suspiciously reminiscent of the (real) skateboarding bulldog who was such a sensation on social media a while back.

But why throw out a popular and widely recognised brand mascot in favour of a non-speaking dog on a board? Why abandon the former version’s sturdily traditional British demeanour, for something suspiciously millennial and metropolitan?

Paul Jordan of Engine Creative explains. ‘Churchill is one of the nation’s most loved brands, but brand love can slip into overfamiliarity.’ Unforgivably, ‘Churchie’ had been allowed to stand still (if you overlook the nodding).

Where previously Churchie had been content to sit around bantering with minor celebrities, now he must be set to work evincing the spirit of ‘chill’ as in ‘relax’ rather, presumably, than Netflix and chill.

Clearly the new-look Churchie character has legs. Short, stubby legs. But legs just the same. Imagine for yourself the many and varied ways in which the now mute mutt can be deployed to suggest how relaxed you too could feel if you only insured with Churchill.

Got anything yet? No? Never mind. Bankstone News feels sure those resourceful chaps at Angina Creative will think of something sooner or later. Or perhaps he could just carry on skateboarding. Maybe get one of those motorised ones though – so chilling doesn’t seem too strenuous.

It seems Britain’s best-loved insurance avatar had come to be seen as merely ‘dependable and reliable.’ But Churchill marketing person Lucy Brooksbank felt customers’ brand relationship was only ‘skin deep’ and ‘heavily reliant on love of the dog.’ The new look decisively breaks that dependency, cutting Churchill loose to leg-paddle itself around an anonymous urban environment for no apparent reason.

The ‘supercharged’ skateboarding dog, Brookspank claims, will ‘deliver greater substance to the brand by reigniting customers’ emotional connection’ and ‘radically changing how people see Churchill.’

Here at Bankstone News we say: uh-huh.

Click on the link to see WikiHow’s extremely helpful step by step guide to creating your own skateboarding dog.

White cliffs, blue passport, green card

October 8, 2019

Out go burgundy passports. In come green cards.

With just days to go until we may or may not be making a clean break from the European Union. insurance provider Admiral has warned motorists that even a pure, final-solution Brexit may not entirely deliver us from the scourge of non-blue travel-related documents.

That’s because anyone planning to drive, in a UK-registered motor, on the Continent (or indeed in the Republic of Ireland) from Halloween onwards will need one. A green card, that is.

But what is this ‘green card’ (and is there any good reason why it couldn’t be blue), you’re probably wondering. That’s an excellent question (and an equally excellent sub-question). Perhaps we’ll come back to that, if we may.

Any Brexit worth of the name will surely rid us of the much resented burden of so-called freedom of movement. No longer will we have to make do without the bureaucratic niceties that mark Brits out as special and different.

If you want to drive au continent (or head south of the no-hard border, if you’re starting from somewhere in Norn Ireland) you’ll now have the chance to apply to your insurance provider (two weeks in advance of your trip) for a special green card (see above) that proves – assuming that’s the case – that your UK motor insurance provides the minimum level of cover required by whatever countries you’re planning to drive in or through.

And if you have a trailer or a caravan or whatever, you’ll now be able to apply for a separate (compulsory) green card for that!

And if your existing insurance policy is likely to expire while you’re driving outside the UK, you can (in fact, you’ll have to) get a separate green card for the new policy.

Ditto the trailer or caravan or whatever.

Depending on which parts of Euroland you plan to pass swiftly through, you could also now qualify for an international driving permit

As a Brit abroad, you could also be eligible for ‘additional checks.’

And of course you’ll get to decorate your shiny new Aston Martin with a lovely acrylic GB sticker free from any of that loathsome federalist yellow-on-blue nonsense.

All in all, we’re well on the way to making Continental journeys special again.

120 go karting crazy in Grantham

August 28, 2019

The UK’s premier insurance themed endurance karting event Insurance Endurance took place this year on Tuesday June 25. And what a day it was!

There were thrills, spills, and more insurance industry networking than any right-minded person either could or would wish to shake a stick at. You can get a fleeting impression by watching our mercifully brief YouTub video of the event by clicking here.

While the various members of 15 eight-man teams (or thereabouts) took turns to tear round the 1382m ‘A Grade’ track for six solid hours in Soddy GT5 karts, whose 390cc engines endow them with the ability to attain speeds up to 60mph, team hosts had their unsuspecting guests (potential business partners and prospects) exactly where they wanted them… trackside in Grantham!

The eventual winners of a hotly-fought contest hotly fought out on the UK’s largest outdoor karting circuit were the misleadingly named Not Fast But Furious team fielded by Take That Car Hire Ltd. 

Hosts (and last year’s most unsporting winners) Team Bunkstain were hard on their heels, mind, finishing less than a minute behind Take That, with rescuemycar.com‘s wittily named team, Rescuemykart, coming in a very creditable third.

The team from resucemycarp.com also scooped the pit stop challenge by changing some tyres on a retired race car faster than anyone else. AND they recorded the fastest lap time (1:29:38) – twice! That’s a literally staggering average speed of 34.5mph – even with all those wiggly bends.

As well as being a great day out, Insurance Endurance also raised more than £500 for richly deserving charity The Insurance Charities. And it’s happening all over again next year, when the event returns to the Public Finance Initiative Kart Track on Thursday 18 June 2020.

Registration is already open. So be sure to book your team place soon or flirt with the desolation and misery of missing out. Visit www.insuranceendurance.co.uk for further deats. 

Beware of tiny creatures

August 27, 2019

Hit wild animal. That’s not a suggestion or an instruction. Because hitting wild animals can be dangerous, as Bankstone News has found out to its cost on more than one occasion.

No, ‘hit wild animal’ is the ‘scientific’ term for the kind of motor insurance claim that arises when someone drives into a wild creature of some kind, resulting in damage to their vehicle.

According to Alcoholics Anonymous Insurance (AA), there’s a lot of it about these days. Hit wild animal motor insurance claims, that is.

Obviously colliding with wildlife whilst driving can be tiresome for the humans involved. But spare a thought also for the wild animals getting hit.

Britain’s woodland creatures have a lot to put up with. There’s being crudely caricatured in human children’s fiction. There’s having to move 500m north each year to allow for climate change. There’s plague-level tick and flea infestations thanks for warmer winters. There’s being gassed, shot at, and chased by dogs, and having your home dug up. Then – on top of all that – the poor little varmints now face the most life-threateningly challenging road-crossing conditions ever recorded, since records began.

If AA are to be believed (and naturally we’re making no judgements here), the number of hit wild animal claims has risen by 15% in the past three years. The negative effects of these incidents – aside, clearly, from the likely demise of any wild animals so hit – include an average £2,300 worth of damage caused to the vehicles involved.

That’s all well and good, you’re probably thinking (perhaps a little callously), but ‘wild animal’ sounds a bit generic. Precisely which animals are we talking about (and/or running down)? Bankstone News couldn’t be gladder you asked that question. Because we’re just about to tell you.

According to AA’s somewhat confusing statistics (as reported by Claims Mag, from whom we pinched this story), badgers and foxes top the RTI (Roadkill Traffic Incident) tables, at 51% and 48% respectively.

We say confusing, because if you think that leaves just 1% left for all the other wild animals, you honestly couldn’t be wronger. Pheasants come in next with 38%. Then you’ve got squirrels, and hedgehogs and boars.

Cows and sheep also get a look in – although, in Bankstone News’ experience, wild cows and sheep are none too common these days.

By now you’re probably feeling a little anxious about extra-urban driving. Reassurance could well be what you need. Well, here it is! The Department for Transport (Dep4Tra) has apparently addressed growing concern over animal incidents by unveiling ‘a new road sign advising drivers to look out for smaller animals’. As far as we can tell from the write-up in Claims Mag, AA don’t say where this sign is, but hopefully it will be a big help.

But why, you may ask, is this sign warning only about small animals? Another excellent question! It seems to be because large animals are easier to see than small ones (unless, as once memorably explained in popular clerical reality show Father Ted, they are ‘far away’). The smallness and lesser visibility of small creatures by no means nullifies the threat they could pose to your bodywork. A well-fed adult squirrel struck mid-leap can punch a pretty hole in any standard civilian vehicle doing 90 down some sylvan byway.

As AA’s Janet Connor explains, ‘Britain is blessed to have a variety of wild and wonderful animals, but while most drivers will be on the lookout for larger animals like deer and badgers, smaller animals like rabbits, hedgehogs and squirrels can cause damage too.’

And, you know what, Readers, she’s probably right about that.

Brits neglect to shop around shock

August 24, 2019

Bankstone News was fascinated to read within the pages of noted industry journal Insurance Rage about some intriguing new research from comparison site GoCompario.

According to the aforementioned comparison site – a competitor of sites like Compare the Monkey Supermeerkat and Confusing.com – more than 40% of Brits (4.1 million of them, all told) meekly allow their motor insurance policies to roll over when renewal time comes around. A staggering 13% don’t even bother shopping around for better deals before meekly rolling over!

This failure to shop around – or to shop around sufficiently – the comparison site claims, costs affected customers £982m a year. Not each, obviously, but collectively. Because if they don’t shop around and switch insurer every twelve months, they’re likely to be paying the UK’s notorious Motor Insurance Loyalty Fee surcharge. So probably, it would be best if they shopped around, and shopped around plenty – possibly by using a trusted comparison site.

So, what excuses did these lazy motorists who don’t shop around enough come up with to justify their self-punishing indolence? They’re mostly pretty risible, Bankstone News doesn’t mind telling you. According to the comparison site who commissioned this disturbing research, their excuses break down as follows.

Improbably, 22% of them have clearly never heard of MILF and naively assume that their current insurer will continue offering them the most competitive premium.

Meanwhile, 21% brazenly admitted that they couldn’t be bothered to shop around because ‘switching is a lot of hassle’.

Tragically, 19% failed to shop around and switch insurer out of pathetic loyalty to their current insurer – the same insurer who’ll now be milking them like a good ‘un to make up for all the cut-price deals it’s knocking out to get new customers on board.

Ten percent didn’t have the confidence to change (sad!); another 10% couldn’t face the hassle of cancelling a monthly direct debit (also sad!), and 7% (very, very sad!) just found ‘the thought of switching insurer difficult’!

The moral of this story couldn’t be clearer. Loyalty is for losers. Everyone must switch insurer every year. Otherwise their current insurer will probably apply MILF and put their premiums up.

They can do this because, according to the comparison site’s research, only 37% of customers bother to check their new premium against what they paid last year.

Instead of putting premiums up, sneakier insurers will simply trim the cover offered for the same price or add in higher excesses until there’s no way they’ll ever have to pay a penny out. Again, it’s easy to get away with because only 20% of customers check for changes to their cover.

So probably the best thing to do is shop around and switch insurer every year. Did we mention that already?

 

From keyless to carless in just 20 seconds

May 29, 2019

All the latest evidence suggests the UK may be moving into a new golden age for car theft.

Government figures recently revealed that total car thefts (TCF) were up almost 10% YoY. Cars with no keys have played a key role in this dramatic car-nick uptick.

Models

Back in the bad old days when cars mostly had the keys of the kind that have teeth – and with which things can be locked – TCF had dropped as low as the 70,000 mark (2013/4). But now, with more and more models dispensing with old-fashioned analogue keys, around 115,000 motors go missing each year.

Back in those days, only Range Rovers and other such ‘premium’ vehicles came keyless, but now, when even Ford Fiestas have outgrown the humble key, there’s a vast array of models from which bleeping criminals can take their pick.

Sensational

Now insurer body ABI claims car theft insurance payouts have risen by more than 20%, thus soaring to a sensational seven-year high.

And paying insurance claims doesn’t come cheap. Forking out for all those missing motors cost insurers a whopping £1.2bn in the first quarter of 2019, the ABI claims.

Body

Today’s tech-wielding vehicle thieves, the insurer body reckons, can get into your car in as little as 20 seconds. That’s almost eight minutes fewer than it takes to soft-boil a standard hen’s egg – which, coincidentally, is the same as the average time that elapses between one motor insurance theft claim getting paid and the one after it.

Exciting

Not only is exciting new technology making cars easier to pinch, it’s also making them more expensive to patch up post prang. No wonder motor insurers spend so much time railing bitterly about how cars just aren’t the classic key-operated thin-skinned death-trap tins they used to be and ‘why must it all be so complicated?’

They probably don’t do that really. But Bankstone News senses this story has probably achieved an adequate length now, and wonders absent-mindedly who could possibly blame it for lapsing into contrafactual incoherence. Surely no one reads these things right down to the final line, do they?

Karting time is here again (almost)

May 29, 2019

If you only attend one insurance-themed kart racing event this year, you’d better make PD sure that insurance-themed kart racing event is Insurance Endurance.

Just twelve months on from last year’s similarly titled Insurance Endurance 2018 event, Insurance Endurance 2019 takes place at the globally renowned PFI Kart Track near Grantham, Lincolnshire, on Tuesday June 25. And, as the more calendrically literate of our readers will not be slow to appreciate, that’s less than a month away now!!!

This hugely popular motor karting endurance event is open to firms from across the insurance industry looking to network with and/or test themselves against the absolute cream of this exciting and dynamic industry sector. There are just a few prized places still up for last minute grabs, so unless you want to miss out, you’d best accelerate your digital withdrawal plans.

With last year’s surprise winners Bankstone Racing having promised not to repeat this freakishly improbably, suspicious and, frankly, unhostly feat, the field, as they say, is wide open.

Although, don’t imagine you can just rock up with your broadly adequate basic driving skills and blow off the competition. If you and your seven friends/acquaintances fancy your chances of getting your filthy paws on the coveted IE crown, you’ll first have to endure a truly gruelling kart ordeal.

The winning team will need to have completed the impressive 1382-metre track (with its 10 hair-raising bends and several challengingly linear straights) a very large number of times – and to have done so pretty briskly.

The reek of burning rubber, the weirdly persistent metallic aftertaste of some kind of sausage sandwich type affair, the high-pitched whine of those bloody karts: could there be a better way to spend your Tuesday morning?

We’d suggest not.

So what are you waiting for?!?! Get yourself along immediately to the Insurance Endurance website and click on the little button that says register. You won’t be sorry you did!*

There, look, that thing with the wheels. That, my friend, is a kart!

*Prediction not guarantee.

Tailgatin’

May 28, 2019

Tailgating can mean many things. Not all of those things are the kind of thing you’d catch us talking about in a nice, clean, family-oriented e-Zine like Bankstone News. And none of them are the kind of thing anyone in their right mind would want to be caught doing.

Not unless you’re the kind of hooligan who considers it perfectly respectable to fire up a barbie in the back of your station wagon whilst slurping your way through a six-pack. But that’s another story. Something perhaps for a future issue.

The particular kind of tailgating we’re concerned with here is tailgating by vans on the UK’s roads. This kind of tailgating involves driving too close to the vehicle in front – which may or may not, whatever the publicity tries to tell you, be a Toyota (although, curiously, Fact Fans, if it is indeed a Toyota, it’s statistically more likely to have a tailgate).

Unlike covered wagons or the aforementioned station wagons, vans tend not to have gates in their tails these days. More often it would be a couple of bi-fold doors or one of those roller-shutter thingies, if it was made in Luton. 

Nor, for that matter, do most of the vehicles up whose arses they’ve recently been accused of driving. But if they did have tailgates and their drivers could press a button on their dashboards marked ‘Activate Tailgate’  as they bowled along whichever highway or byway they happened to be on – and those tailgates then swung down, there’s a good chance they’d hit the bonnet of a van in close pursuit.

That’s because according to important new research carried out by Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, UK vans are forever driving into other vehicles from behind. 

According to figures from HMG D4T, tailgating (by all types of vehicle) causes more crashes than speeding, drink driving and poor weather conditions, which, you’re bound to admit, certainly sounds like a potent combination.

Almost 10% of an average annual tally of six-thousand-odd tailgate prangs involved what are euphemistically termed ‘light commercial vehicles’. Unhelpfully for the premise of this story, the figures don’t specify whether the LCV’s role was as perpetrators or as victims. Although, to be fair, as comedians like to say, when it comes to white van man, guilty until proved innocent seems a reasonable assumption.

Neil Greig, who insists ‘I AM RoadSmart’ claims tailgating is a bugbear – and a pretty sizeable example of that mythical species at that. “Tailgating is the biggest single bugbear that motorway users in particular report,” he says. “Drivers feel scared and get angry about it,” Neil claims. As indeed a growing number of them appear to feel about most things in contemporary Britain.

Something must be done! 

That’s what we say here at Bankstone News. 

End of the road for shopping around?

December 20, 2018

Unsure whether or not it should take a dim view of insurance providers charging loyal customers more than disloyal ones, regulator the Fanatical Crackdown Authority (FCA) decided to ask the audience.

Exploitation

An exhaustive survey of sentiment among purchasers of insurance products has now revealed that roughly half such persons consider the practice (jewel pricing, as it is known, for some obscure reason) ‘exploitative’.

Indeed, almost four out of five insurance buying persons (so not just the ones who think jewel pricing is exploitative) believe the practice should be outlawed.

But a ban might not please everyone. Slightly worryingly, 38% of survey respondents said they actually ‘enjoy’ shopping around for their insurance – while fewer than one in five said they couldn’t be arsed comparing prices.

Sneaking admiration

But it’s a devious and cynical world we live in these days, Readers. Around 40% of respondents said that, whilst it might be ‘sneaky’ ripping off loyal customers, they view it with a certain grudging respect.

Maybe ‘ripping off’ is the wrong way of looking at it. Ian Huge, CEO of survey-mongers Consumer Intelligence, believes that – far from being the villains of the piece – insurers deserve our sympathy.

Vicious circle

Jewel pricing, he suggests, is “not a deliberate and calculated attempt to rip off loyal customers.” It’s more of a technical thing – what you might call “a by-product of having introductory rates in a market with high customer turnover.”

Insurers, Mr Huge argues, are stuck on a sort of a “merry-go-round”. They’d love to get off, he says. But if they started charging everyone the same price, they’d lose business to insurers who had yet to dismount from the merry-go-round.

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