Money Grouse: 'One of those ludicrous stories'

JIM LAYTON was shocked to discover that no direct debit paying his household contents premiums to AA Insurance Services appeared on his bank statement, although he had taken out the insurance three months earlier.

Fearing he was without cover, he rushed down to his local Leamington Spa office where he had arranged the insurance.

Staff there telephoned the Newcastle-upon-Tyne head office in his presence and assured him that their failure to take up the direct debit was merely due to an administrative backlog.

Everything was operating smoothly on his buildings insurance, which he had taken out earlier in the year.

The next thing he heard from the company was a letter, saying his policy had been cancelled because he had not replied to 'previous correspondence'.

What previous correspondence, he asked the local office? Had he not been making the inquiries? More important, which policy had been lapsed - buildings or contents? The standard format letter did not say. And when had it lapsed?

Although the staff were unable to provide any answers because the head office had already shut down for the Bank Holiday weekend, they suggested he pay all over again just to be on the safe side.

Determined now to leave nothing to chance, Mr Layton took out new buildings and contents insurance and delayed setting off on holiday until he had checked the new policies had taken effect.

On his return, he discovered that his insurance (he still did not know which) had been lapsed four days before he was informed. He wrote to head office demanding an explanation.

The AA skirted around the important questions in its reply.

Meanwhile, he received what the local office claimed was his buildings policy, although the accompanying note told him it was his motor insurance. He also asked the Independent to intervene, saying he had been caught up in 'one of those ludicrous stories that only happens to other people'.

The AA has now apologised and offered Mr Layton free insurance for a year.

'A fundamental error which could easily have been resolved was compounded by a number of unsatisfactory events,' it said.

'But if Mr Layton had needed to claim in that time we would have realised our mistake and honoured his policies.'

Write to Money Grouse, The Independent, 40 City road, London EC1Y 2DB. Include a daytime telephone number if possible. Please do not send original documents or SAEs as we cannot guarantee to deal with every letter personally.

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