James Daley: Why can't they treat us with respect?

Two tales of bad practice in two different industries came across my desk this week – one which affected me, and one which affected thousands. By far the worse is the story of Prudential's Health Insurance plan, which shook up the UK market four years ago by becoming the first policy to reward customers for staying healthy.

While customers could theoretically reduce their premiums by doing healthy things such as taking cholesterol tests or stopping smoking, the biggest draw of the PruHealth plan was that your gym membership would be free if you attended more than twice a week – making the policy highly attractive for fitness fanatics in the market for private health cover.

Prudential, of course, was quick to realise that this was a great selling point. Until as recently as six weeks ago, the company was running adverts under the slogan "Why pay for the gym?" – a straightforward campaign that, unsurprisingly, proved very successful.

This month, however, the Pru had a change of heart, and began writing to customers to say that from November the plan will no longer pay for most people's gym membership – effectively admitting to many new customers that they had signed up under false pretences.

It's still technically possible to get this year's gym membership for free if you earn enough "vitality points" – but this would be something of a false economy anyway, seeing as you'd have to spend hundreds of pounds on health screenings and the like to build yourself up to the necessary level.

Sadly, PruHealth now looks much the same as any other middle-of-the-road financial services product, offering a few discounts for members who use certain "partner services", but not offering nearly as good value as it once did. If you're planning to cut the best bits out of a product, it's shoddy to spend the previous six months promoting these very benefits, and then hope that apathy will help you hang on to most of your customers once the dust has settled.

The other medal for bad practice this week goes to Virgin Media, which has taken to adding the odd channel to its basic TV packages, only to remove them a few weeks later once customers are hooked on a show.

This is a matter closer to my own heart, as I have spent the last two weeks getting excited about the final season of The Wire (one of the best TV shows ever made, I might add), which is aired on FX in the UK. I've never been fully aware of what channels were and weren't included on my TV package – but when I turn on the menu, it helps me by highlighting the ones that are available.

So, a couple of months ago, when FX suddenly started to work, I assumed that Virgin had decided to add it to the range of channels on its basic package. There was no warning, no customer notice letting me know that this was only a temporary fixture. But five or six weeks later, after I'd got hooked on one of its shows, it was gone again.

When I put in a call to enquire what was going on, I was told that FX has been added for a few weeks so that I could "see what I was missing by not signing up to a bigger package". And how much would that be? "Another £22 a month, sir." Given that I only pay around £30 a month, it hardly seemed worth paying an extra 75 per cent to watch one programme a week.

It's all entirely legal, of course, just as it is for Prudential to advertise a benefit and then withdraw it a few weeks later. It just leaves a rather bitter taste in the mouth, and makes it highly unlikely that their customers will ever recommend them to anyone else.

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk

Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

    £40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

    Neil Pavier: Management Accountant

    £45,000 - £55,000: Neil Pavier: Are you looking for your next opportunity for ...

    Sheridan Maine: Commercial Accountant

    £45,000 - £55,000: Sheridan Maine: Are you a newly qualified ACA/ACCA/ACMA qua...

    Laura Norton: Project Accountant

    £50,000 - £60,000: Laura Norton: Are you looking for an opportunity within a w...

    Day In a Page

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine