Record the facts on your video: Theft victims lacking full details of missing goods may lose out again, says Sue Fieldman

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HAVE you programmed your memory with the make and model of your video, or recorded the name of the manufacturer of your stereo system?

The odds are you haven't, and as a result you could lose out if you have to make a claim on your contents insurance.

Videos, television sets and other electrical items are the most common goods taken by thieves. But many householders do not have the slightest idea of the make and model.

They are also far from switched-on at keeping receipts and guarantees to help with the replacement.

Peter Bird, head of personal claims for Norwich Union, says: 'People do not have as much knowledge of their possessions as we would wish. Luckily, with videos people keep their instruction manual - the videos these days are too complicated to work without them.

'But some people do not even have these, and then we have to ask questions about what the items will do and try to work it out that way.

'We sometimes use photographs. People do not take photographs of their television sets, but there is usually a picture of the family taken at Christmas and we may be able to spot the television and video in there'.

Ian Frater, customer relations executive for Commercial Union, thinks that amnesia over the details of electrical items may be a female phenomenon.

He says: 'I have discussed the matter with a colleague and we can both remember exactly where we bought our video and how much it cost.

'But I do not think my wife would know. Whereas she will know the make of the washing machine and I would not.'

The problem is that, if all you can remember about your video is that it was a black box with a hole and you have no receipts or other evidence, the insurer will not replace it with an all-singing, all- dancing model.

Mr Bird says: 'At the end of the day we would have to go for a basic video.' You could, therefore, lose out.

Alan Dixon, property and accident account manager of Eagle Star, has some timely advice for all householders. He recommends that people write down all the details of their electrical goods. He also advocates taking pictures of the more unusual household items.

In future insurers will have to keep their own house in order. There is a trend among the insurance companies to buy replacement items direct for householders instead of you going out on a shopping spree for a new video and the insurer pays the bill.

There will be no pulling the wool over the insurers' eyes to inflate a claim in the future - provided, of course, they have kept the details of the make and model number they supplied]

The insurance companies use their financial muscle in the high street to knock down prices.

Mr Frater says: 'We do in some circumstances make arrangements for items to be replaced from Dixons or Curry's'

Some insurance companies are also now testing the water using centralised suppliers. Eagle Star and Frizzell Financial Services are among the companies with a centralised scheme on trial.

The insurance companies want to cut the cost of replacement as much as possible, and buying for the policyholder may well be the answer.

But what if you genuinely want the cash instead of a new video or other electrical item? You may need to spend the money improving the security in your home to stop thieves having another bash at entering.

The insurance companies are not obliged to give you cash. They look at each case on its merits and obviously they are on their guard against someone wanting to make a quick buck at their expense.

But if you can put forward a genuine reason it should be looked upon favourably.

However, the amount of cash varies. Mr Dixon at Eagle Star says: 'If someone decided that they are not replacing the item, we pay the market value of the item at the time it was stolen. It is not the replacement value. It takes into account the fact that it was, for example, two years old'.

Commercial Union adopts the same market value philosophy.

But if a policy is new for old, why should wear and tear be taken into account when deciding on a cash payment but not if the item is replaced?

A pat on the back must go to Norwich Union in this respect. Mr Bird says: 'The value you will get is the cost to us of the replacement.'

The Norwich Union policy genuinely pays new for old if you want cash - although, of course, the company prefers to deliver a replacement.

(Photograph omitted)

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