Monthly Archives September 2011

An ‘Online Only’ Car Insurance Experience

The theory goes that if a business doesn’t need to pay as many salaries, it can offer its products at more competitive prices.

The internet is therefore an ideal medium for transacting low cost automated business.

If a company can use its website to take a customer from enquiry through to sale without the need for human intervention it should be able to save money and either increase profit margin or pass the savings on to customers.

Having tried a selection of car insurance comparison sites I recently settled for an ‘online only’ car insurance policy.

It was the cheapest policy I could find that also included things like protected NCD (No Claims Discount) and legal cover.

The welcome pack and certificate arrived and all was well.

But then 1 month later I moved house and I had to make some changes…

It soon became apparent there was no customer services phone number at all and all enquiries (apart from claims) had to be sent by email.

This wasn’t an immediate problem as my enquiry wasn’t urgent and all I needed to do was ‘login’ to my ‘customer area’ and make the changes to get a new quote.

I’ve been using the internet for a few years now so I can’t say how a ‘newbie’ would find things but I found changing my details and getting a fresh quote to be quite straightforward albeit a bit ‘clunky’.

Having changed the addresses and obtained a new quote I fell off my chair.

The insurer wanted an additional 75% of the original premium for the remaining 11 months of the policy.

It was at this point my need to contact customer services became a bit more important and so duly I compiled an email to to find out if I had correctly altered the policy information.

48hrs later and no reply…

So I sent the same email again.

Another 48hrs later and still no reply…

I then forwarded the email to the ‘compalints@’ email address and lo, a reply!

The alterations and new premium were confirmed as correct.

Yes, it would mean my premium would nearly double just for moving house.

Strangely though, when I went back to the comparison sites I was able to find a different insurer who could offer me a policy at the new address for less than the original premium at the old address!

If only I’d checked the cost of cover at the new address before I bought the policy!

Now there’s usually an ‘admin fee’ to pay when you cancel a car insurance policy (even if you cancel within the ‘cooling off period’) so before I rushed into cancelling I did some digging and found out I would be charged the princely sum of £75.

The only comparison I can offer is Swiftcover who transact most of their business online but would have only charged me £50 and who also have a call centre with customer service operatives and Iggy Pop.

An admin fee of £75 is therefore, in my opinion, a bit steep for an ‘online only’ insurer but it was still more cost effective to suck it up, pay the fee and go elsewhere than it would have been to pay the additional premium.

Having cancelled, I was notified that any refund of premium would be processed within 30 days and not one day sooner than that, I received my refund.

Oddly, it took only minutes for them to take my money in the first place and just a few days to receive the policy documents so why it took them 30 days to give me my money back can only be their way of squeezing every last drop of interest out of the funds in their account before releasing them back to me. Or am I being cynical?

Anyway, it turns out that a customer services phone number is quite improtant to me afterall and I doubt I’ll compromise again in the future.

So all in all, not the best car insurance experience I’ve had but I suppose that’s what you get for buying car insurance from a supermarket!

The only clues I’m giving to who the insurer was are:

Their name has 4 letters and starts and ends with A.

Their slogan is ‘that’s A _ _  A price’.