Direct Line offers high-speed insurance on the net

The Hi-Tech Investor

Direct Line, the phone-based insurance company, has re-launched its internet site. It now sells motorinsurance, car breakdown cover and home insurance directly via its web pages. The company claims it willoffer the fastest "quote and buy" service in the business, and that web users will be able to take out a policy intwo minutes. The website is also linked to a call centre, so you can speak to an operator if anything is unclear.

Direct Line, the phone-based insurance company, has re-launched its internet site. It now sells motorinsurance, car breakdown cover and home insurance directly via its web pages. The company claims it willoffer the fastest "quote and buy" service in the business, and that web users will be able to take out a policy intwo minutes. The website is also linked to a call centre, so you can speak to an operator if anything is unclear.

Direct Line has high hopes for selling insurance online. The company expects 15 per cent of its motorbusiness to come over the internet by the year 2003.

The new site has added an area called Quote and Buy, which gives online quotes. If visitors like the quotes,cover can be taken out directly with a credit or debit card.

Whether they will depends largely on how old they are, and where they live. Direct Line, like several otherdirect insurance companies, tends to be more expensive for younger people and for people living in cities.

For example, for £15,000 of contents cover for a two-bedroom flat in Camden, north London, DirectLine's premium is £183.75. A quote from telephone insurance broker, Berry Birch and Noble, comesto £99.52 for the same cover with General Accident. Increasing the cover to £30,000 costs£322.35 with Direct Line against £112.46 with GA through Berry Birch and Noble.

Move to the suburbs, and Direct Line becomes more attractive. Its quote to cover a four-bedroom, detachedhouse in Middlesex is £541.80, including contents cover of £38,000. The same house wouldcost around £1,000 to insure with several other companies.

Direct Line's web-based quote system is easy enough to use, and it lets visitors save their quotes and comeback to them later. However, it is not as quick as the publicity suggests. Checking one quote and adjustingdifferent options such as the sums insured, personal possessions or the type of security at a property can takecloser to 20 minutes than two.

The company doesn't offer any extra discounts for taking out policies online, even though this saves it a fairamount of administration. Several general insurance companies do give reductions to internet users. Theymight only amount to a few £, but it does makes the process feel more rewarding.

Direct Line, www.direct-line.com

Stephen Pritchard can be contacted at:Hi-tech-investor@dial.pipex.com

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