Julian Knight: What price an insurer's reputation in this sorry tale of airport angst?
Sunday 20 April 2008
We saw a prime example last week of a company putting a small saving ahead of its own reputation and refusing to play fair by its customers. The insurer Direct Line – along with Royal Bank of Scotland, Churchill and Tesco – announced that new policyholders who had taken out its travel insurance would not be covered while using Terminal 5 at Heathrow airport.
Talk about kicking people when they're down. After the shambles of the terminal's opening, which was nothing short of a national disgrace, consumers were feeling understandably anxious about travelling through the airport. Just when things seemed to have died down, big-name insurers rekindled their anxiety – a very mean-spirited act.
Direct Line deserved the criticism levelled at it, which may have brought about the volte-face it did 48 hours later, when it said that it would, after all, cover passengers going through Terminal 5 as a "goodwill" gesture. Thanks a bunch.
The insurer said that it had received undertakings from British Airways and the British Airports Authority that things had improved. It could have seen that by simply following the news, or lack of it, out of Terminal 5.
Anyone who had recently taken out travel insurance with Direct Line would be quite justified in asking what the company thought it was doing in putting them through such uncertainty.
Debacles like this let down an industry that made a useful PR move after last summer's horrendous floods in being seen, at least initially, to act fast.
It adds to the general impression that the insurance industry all too often tries to find any excuse it can to turn down legitimate claims from customers.
Here's another blot on the copybook of the insurance industry: the extra charge imposed by many leading players in the motoring sector of the industry on those customers who want to pay by monthly direct debit, rather than annually upfront. And they don't just charge a couple of quid: some of the extra fees involved would do a store- card provider or doorstep lending firm proud.
After two years of making do with hire cars, I have decided to rejoin the most overtaxed group of people in Britain – motorists. Shopping around online for car insurance last week, I found that if I clicked the option to pay by direct debit my premiums shot up by 10, 20 or, in one case, close to 30 per cent.
With most other products and services you either pay the same or get a discount for making the not inconsiderable commitment of signing up to a direct debit. So why not car insurance? Maybe insurers fear that people who pay in this way are more likely to switch between providers, damaging their bottom line.
Whatever the reason, consumers should have the right to be able to budget using direct debit without being charged extortionate fees. There are some insurers out there who don't make this group of customers pay extra, so why can't the rest follow suit? The present situation is a clear case of a sizeable chunk of the car insurance industry failing, in the words of the Financial Services Authority mantra, to treat customers fairly.
Solar on Schools project offers green investors 'tangible, ethical assets'
easyJet founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou aims to make buying a home easier
Questions of Cash: We were left grounded when FedEx spilt the beans with Christmas gift
Life expectancy calculator will allow people to plan ahead but needs to be handled carefully
How to start your own internet business
- 1 KFC 'sorry' after lesbian couple are kicked out of Bath restaurant for 'heavy petting'
- 2 Dylan Tombides: West Ham confirm 20-year-old striker has died after battle with cancer
- 3 24 people applied for the 'world's toughest job', here are their interviews
- 4 'Sinful': Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy comes under attack
- 5 Saudi Arabia declares all atheists are terrorists in new law to crack down on political dissidents
The food poverty scandal that shames Britain: Nearly 1m people rely on handouts to eat – and benefit reforms may be to blame
US Navy christens huge $3 billion destroyer ship USS Zumwalt that appears as a fishing boat on enemy radar
Scottish independence: It is the English who should be on their knees, begging the Scots to vote ‘No’
Nigel Farage fatigue? Half of voters ‘immune’ to Ukip’s appeal
Nigel Farage: I’m taking on the status quo, and the Establishment’s fighting back
Refugee facing deportation from Sweden saved by fellow passengers refusing to let plane leave
iJobs Money & Business
£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...
£221.25 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a well established Inter...
£40000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Client Relationship Manager - SQL...
£35000 - £50000 per annum: Pro-Recruitment Group: Take your chance to join the...
Day In a Page
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens
A seven-bedroom Grade II-listed property with a separate self-contained apartment
A five-bedroom Victorian house with three reception rooms and galleried landing, £695,000
A six-bedroom farmhouse with five acres of land in a former cloth-making village
A secluded seven-bedroom detached house with large private garden, £490,000
A three-bedroom cottage overlooking Sarratt village green with open fires and solid oak floors
A three-bedroom maisonette flat in a Grade I-listed, Georgian townhouse in a sought-after location
A one-bedroom apartment located within a private gated development, north of Turnham Green
Look forward to a brighter future at two-bedroom Sunny Cottages, ideal for Londoners looking to downsize
A three-bedroom red-brick cottage with outbuildings and pretty gardens, £200,000
This three-bedroom flat within a former textile factory spans the corner of the fourth floor and has a balcony
A charming four-bedroom Oxfordshire cottage with oak floors and chunky-beamed ceilings, £465,000
A beautiful one-bed flat in a sought-after portered block, with access to Norland Square communal gardens
A one-bedroom flat within a Sixties school conversion with high-spec design and open-plan kitchen, close to Lambeth North Tube, £435,000
A 17th century four-bedroom house, with open fireplaces, cellar and pool, £600,000
A three-bedroom, coach house with luxury open-plan living space and contemporary breakfast bar
A newly refurbished one-bedroom flat in the heart of Mayfair, close to Grosvenor Square
A charming four-bedroom house overlooking Burleigh Square Park, close to Thorpe Bay
A three-bedroom farmhouse with a large inglenook fireplace and exposed beams
A boutique mews house, set around a central courtyard, with three bedrooms and a private roof terrace
A four-bedroom farm-conversion with three bathrooms and two reception rooms
A two-bedroom detached house with ensuite bathrooms and a sun-drenched decked terrace, £750,000
A modern and spacious two-bedroom, penthouse flat with two bathrooms in a prestigious development
A beautifully renovated five-bedroom terrace with three reception rooms and a courtyard garden, £700,000
A four-bedroom period house which has been extended to provide almost 2,500sq ft of living space, £675,000
A pretty three-bedroom Georgian home with a 22ft drawing room and a master suite with a balcony, £525,000
A substanstial family home with five bedrooms and landscaped gardens in the much sought-after Branksome Park area
A well-presented three-bedroom house with front and rear gardens, close to White City station, £475,000
A handsome five-bedroom house in a sought-after location close to the city centre
A five-bedroom country home with valley views, equestrian stables and 27 acres of land, £725,000
A six-bedroom farm house with separate, detached cottages and 371 acres of land
A two-bedroom cottage with parquet floors, chunky beams and an open fireplace
A three-bedrrom flat with 2,733sq feet of living space, a beautiful private garden and 15 acres of communal grounds