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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
News
Lane Del Rey performing on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 2014
people... but none of them helped me get a record deal, insists Lana Del Rey
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
British author Howard Jacobson has been long-listed for the Man Booker Prize
books
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Sport
Louis van Gaal watches over Nani
transfers
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Cost Reporting-MI Packs-Edinburgh-Bank-£350/day

    £300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Cost Reporting Manager - MI Packs -...

    Insight Analyst – Permanent – Up to £40k – North London

    £35000 - £40000 Per Annum plus 23 days holiday and pension scheme: Clearwater ...

    Test Lead - London - Investment Banking

    £475 - £525 per day: Orgtel: Test Lead, London, Investment Banking, Technical ...

    Business Analyst - Banking - Scotland - £380-£480

    £380 - £480 per day: Orgtel: Business Analyst - Banking - Edinburgh - £380 - ...

    Day In a Page

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

    A land of the outright bizarre
    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
    Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

    The worst kept secret in cinema

    A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
    Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
    Why do we have blood types?

    Are you my type?

    All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
    Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

    Honesty box hotels

    Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

    Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

    The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
    Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

    The 'scroungers’ fight back

    The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
    Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

    Fireballs in space

    Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
    A Bible for billionaires

    A Bible for billionaires

    Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
    Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

    Paranoid parenting is on the rise

    And our children are suffering because of it
    For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

    Magna Carta Island goes on sale

    Yours for a cool £4m
    Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn