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(Cold) Comfort Insurance PDF Printable Version E-mail

 

(Cold) Comfort Insurance and 'Full-timing'

Barry and Margaret Williamson
December 2010

Copied below is our recent correspondence with Peter Cue, managing director of Victor Millwell Insurance Agency Ltd, which includes Comfort Insurance.

We wrote to Comfort following an abrupt and unsatisfactory interaction with their website and a phone call to an operative called 'Nish'. The problems were several, but hinged around the online quote of 612 being more than doubled when Nish assumed that we were 'full-timing', a term only mentioned but not defined on the Comfort website.

The correspondence gives a useful insight into the minds of people who are self-proclaimed experts in the field of motorhome insurance.

7 December 2010: Email from Us to Comfort Insurance

Sakar Hills
Harmanli
Southeast Bulgaria

Dear Comfort

On 16 November 2010, with our motorhome insurance renewal pending, we checked a selection of motorhome insurance companies for a quotation. Our vehicle is an American RV, for which we have a full no claims discount entitlement.

After looking at an on-line quotation with Comfort, and noting that the estimate would increase for those who are either over retirement age or 'full-timing', we phoned you. This was not a pleasant experience!

A man called 'Nish' began by saying in a very off-hand way 'you're looking at a minimum of 1,200' (almost double our on-line quote). That was before he'd taken any details whatsoever, nor did he show the slightest interest in us. Asked if that amount would be reduced by a full no claims discount, he said that no claims discount didn't come into it, there wasn't any. He stressed that 1,200 was a starting point and it would probably be much more. As he clearly couldn't be bothered to discuss our insurance needs or find out anything about us, we rang off.

This treatment shocked us, coming from a company we used for many years in the past, when it was a friendly family-run business specializing in motorhomes. Why load a policy against a particular category or age of driver without taking their history and claims record into account? And why employ staff with absolutely no interest in their potential customers?

All the other companies we rang were willing to listen, explain their policies and phone or email us back with more information.

We would find it difficult now to recommend Comfort Insurance to any of our motorhoming contacts.

Margaret and Barry Williamson

12 December 2010: Email from Peter Cue of Comfort Insurance to Us

Dear Margaret & Barry

Our customer's concerns are taken very seriously and consequently I was disappointed to learn that you were unhappy with your own experience, following your telephone conversation with our offices.

It is our aim to provide exceptional service at all times and regret that you felt it was not the case on this occasion.

However after investigating and listening to the telephone conversation which took place I think there may be a misunderstanding on your part.  The only reason that you would not have been able to obtain an on-line quote is due to the fact that you require a full timing policy (being retired or your age is not a criteria for being unable to quote on-line)

Within the telephone conversation with our operator, he stated that he had your full details (available to him from our on-line facility) and your past history details, but however due to the age of your vehicle he would not have been able to provide a quote without referring your case to underwriters. The 1,200 he mentioned represented a vehicle a few years newer than your own. I appreciate that you feel that this is excessive but unfortunately we have experienced very poor underwriting results on older vehicles for which full timing cover has been provided, but not however on the newer vehicles.

In consequence of this underwriters feel that they are now pricing accordingly. As you will appreciate technology has improved to such a degree, that statistics are now available far more accurately and quicker than in the past.

With regard to the query regarding no claims bonus: Our policies are currently provided on a net rated basis, which reflects a rate of full no claims bonus or full introductory bonus. This has been widely accepted as the way forward. This minimizes administration costs which benefits all our policyholders in the long run.

We also understand that there are now more Insurers in the motorhome insurance market, now willing to underwrite full timing policies, and therefore I trust that you can obtain a quotation which you feel is more competitive with a company who has not suffered the losses which our company has in recent years in this area.

I would like to thank you for the opportunity of quoting for your vehicle and hope that you are both keeping well and still enjoying your travels.

King regards

Peter Cue

15 December 2010: Email from Us to Peter Cue of Comfort Insurance

Alexandroupolis
Greece

Dear Peter

Reason for Writing: Our only interest in writing to you was to give you an opportunity to review your staff selection and training procedures. We don't appreciate being told that there was a misunderstanding on our part; this is a quite unacceptable attempt to shift responsibility from where it belongs in your organisation. Margaret understood fully what she was told; she couldn't understand what she was not told.

Retention of Data: Margaret was not told, nor did either of us expect, that you had retained a file on us from our previous use of your services. Much has changed in our circumstances since we last used your company for insurance, but your employee showed no desire to verify or collect any further information from us: he seemed to think he knew it all.

Collecting Data: We don't know how Nish or you know the age of our current motorhome. He asked nothing about the age of our vehicle, nor did he explain that its age was a reason for the high premium. Given that the older a vehicle is, the less its value (and so the less the compensation, should it be written off), we fail to understand that argument. Nor do we understand why 50 years of claim-free and conviction-free driving (the last 20 of them in a motorhome) does not suggest to your underwriters that this driver is a very low risk.

No Claims Bonus or Discount: Your operative simply stated that there wasn't a no claims bonus on policies for 'full-timers'. In fact, he failed to mention almost everything that now appears in your email.

Individual Circumstances: On your website, you explain in some detail why you need to collect so much data. You write: 'By taking so much information we can personalise the price for your specific circumstances.' For us this was a joke: after collecting no information, all we were told was 'You are looking at more than 1200!'

You also list on your website a wide range of data items required for contact by telephone. We prepared the answers to this, only to be confronted by an operative who showed no interest and a dismissive attitude.

Proposer details:

Occupation
Marital Status
Access to other vehicles
Type of driving licence held and how long held
House number or name
Additional driver details:
First Name
Surname
Occupation
Marital Status
Access to other vehicles
Type of driving licence held and how long held
Relationship to insured
Vehicle Details:
Make Of Base Vehicle e.g. Fiat
Converter Of Motorhome e.g. Autotrial
Model Of Motorhome e.g. Scout
Year Of Manufacture
Registration

Margaret was asked for none of this, before the online quote of 612 was doubled! Is this what you call an 'efficient, customer-friendly service'?

'Full-Timing': Nowhere on your website do you define 'full-timing', nor do you mention that premiums can be more than doubled for people regarded as being in that category. You emulate the worst of marketing practices by emphasising the positive features of your product and saying nothing of the negatives.

On the one hand, you want your customers to be resident in the UK for a number of years (the term 'resident' is not defined) and yet you offer 365 days of cover within the EU. This is a massive contradiction.

We regard your approach to 'full-timing' to be somewhat out of date. Through our website and our role as Travel Consultants for the MMM, we receive a constant stream of enquiries from people wanting to make long-distance, long-term journeys in their motorhome. That, after all, is the major point of owning a motorhome. It is designed to be lived in and it is designed for long-distance, long-term travel.

Our contemporaries on the mainland of Europe take this for granted and their motorhomes roam widely and freely throughout that great Continent. We in the UK are often limited by the number of countries we can visit and the time we can spend out of Britain.

Your operative didn't spend a moment checking if we were indeed 'full-time'. For many who, like us, own a house in the UK, pay UK taxes of all kinds, have a vehicle (or two) registered, taxed and MOT'd in the UK, etc, the idea that this equates to 'living in the van', with an old-fashioned view of a gypsy or a stereotype of a new-age traveller, is quite absurd.

Electoral Register: You require an applicant to be on the Electoral Register when this is not in any way a legal requirement for UK residents.

Even if one were on the Register, the Electoral Commission website states that you can register to vote if you are:

'16 or over (but you cannot vote until you are 18).

A UK, Republic of Ireland or qualifying Commonwealth citizen. Qualifying Commonwealth citizens are those who have leave to enter or remain in the UK, or do not require such leave.

A citizen of a European Union country living in the UK.

A citizen of the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man or a British Overseas Territory living in the UK.'

What bearing has this on the insurance of a motorhome?

Residence Status: This is a complex matter, as you know. The EU allows its citizens to travel, live and work in any of its 27 member countries; and yet most services are still residency-based. In general, people are required to be 'resident' in one country, although many people take advantage of the services of more than one country. However, motorhomers cannot be regarded as non-resident in the UK when they clearly aren't resident in any other country. If that were so, they would have access to no services!

Perhaps motorhomers and other long-term travellers occupy a hole or gap in the EU regulations. If this is so, their case should be dealt with sympathetically and not dismissed as being their problem or their 'misunderstanding'. It seems that we are likely to understand more than you do, and certainly more than one 'Nish'.

Previous 'Misunderstanding': We didn't bother to comment at the time, but we thought that your reply to an enquiry we made in November 2009 was equally absurd. We wanted insurance for a short wheel base Mercedes Sprinter van we own, perhaps coupled with motorhome insurance. Your 'Nish' replied:

'Good afternoon,

Thank you for your enquiry.

Looking through a record we have for you on an insurance policy held with us in the past, I see that you are retired. Unfortunately the insurers we use, for commercially registered vehicles, would not be able to provide a quotation due to you not being in employment.

Kind Regards,

Nish'

In fact it isn't a commercially registered vehicle, but a van used purely for our private use - as many are. It is a nearly-new Mercedes, in excellent mechanical condition, and our 'not being in employment' does not prevent us having pensions that add up to more than the average UK household income! But none of that was of any interest: again you looked into your records - which you should not be holding or (mis)using without our permission - and made your own assumptions.

Customer Relations: We know of a number of other motorhomers (including ourselves) whose business you have lost through inappropriate ways of dealing with telephone enquiries. In all cases, this involved speaking with Ben Cue, who appears to have handed on his style to someone called Nish. Dealing with Pat or Aimee Cue in the past was a much more satisfactory experience.

Conclusion: We do not wish to continue this exchange, but we do want to emphasise that we do not accept your insulting suggestion that we did not understand the process to which we were subjected. We shall put this correspondence on our website, so that other motorhomers are warned about the ageist policies you employ (be it the age of the vehicle or the driver).

Barry and Margaret Williamson

www.magbaztravels.com