'Drivel' charge in travel insurance war of words

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The Independent Online
Round Two in the war of words between Barclaycard and the travel insurance company WorldCover Direct. The latter yesterday accused Barclays of talking "absolute drivel" while Barclays retorted that WorldCover's tactics were "fairly cheap. I've nothing more to say...there's not much to be gained from it."

The spat concerns Barclaycard's famous TV ads starring Rowan Atkinson in which all sorts of scrapes are solved by the card's various forms of free insurance. On Tuesday WorldCover launched a press offensive against Barclaycard, labelling the ads "a complete con," and claiming the card did not deliver travel cover in the way implied by the ads.

Barclays replied that it always made it clear travellers should buy separate travel insurance as well as take the card. Yesterday Jonathan Biles, a director of WorldCover, poured petrol on the bonfire: "To assert at this stage that they've always said one should get separate travel insurance is absolute drivel. The very essence of their advertisements intimate that with a Barclaycard, all sorts of disasters are automatically fully covered. This is simply not true."

Barclays did not feel like rising to the bait again yesterday. A spokesman merely replied as above. Whether Barclays will take any kind of legal action against WorldCover has not been decided. "It's not for me to say," said the spokesman.

Archie Norman, the cherubic chief executive of Asda, has scooped the Retailer of the Year award - sponsored by NatWest Securities - with a thumping 41 per cent of the vote. Mr Norman travelled down from Leeds to accept the award and his prizes, which included a signed football (Mr Norman regularly turns out for the Asda footie team) and a Leeds United replica shirt with his name on the back.

Appropriately for a man with rumoured political ambitions it also bore the number 10. But in a speech that was almost presidential in its polish Mr Norman expressed nervousness about his prospects given the fate of previous winners, who include Sir Ralph Halpern and Gerald Ratner: "None of them are in jail. Some are still employed. One or two are even doing quite well," he said. Even so, sell Asda.

Staying with the footie theme, Peter Middleton, who moved recently from the helm at Lloyds of London to the even more lucrative pastures of Salomon Brothers, faces a cruel choice this weekend. He is a life-long Middlesborough supporter, yet has recently been spotted presenting post-match awards at Chelsea.

Chelsea chairman Matthew Harding is a good friend of Mr Middleton, who now lives near the ground. On Sunday 'Borough take the coach down to Stamford Bridge - so which team will he support? Mr Middleton was keeping his head well down yesterday.

14 February is St Valentine's Day. Disturbingly, it is also National Impotence Day. Whatever can this mean? If you work for an investment bank, watch out: Eddie George is going on the piste. A chill wind blew through the Square Mile yesterday as word spread that the Governor of the Bank of England is about to embark on a week-long skiing holiday almost exactly a year after another ill-fated trip to the slopes - rudely interuppted by the collapse of Baring, the blue-blooded merchant bank. It was on Sunday 26 February the Bank took the fateful decision not to bail out Baring with public money, since the pounds 800m-plus losses from Nick Leeson's derivatives gambling had not been capped. Just days before, Mr George had arrived at his ski ch alet when he received news of the crisis, and was forced to fly back without having been up a chair-lift. Bank staff are confident, however, that the Governor's imminent trip to Avoriez in the French Alps does not signal a repetition. No doubt Chancellor Ken Clarke wishes him a safe journey down the black runs.