Would you buy plumbing cover from a water company?

HATE your water company? Now it is trying to sell you insurance for something you may have thought it partially responsible for. As winter approaches and the demand for plumbing services increases, Anglian Water is busy selling insurance to its two million customers against damage to internal and external pipes. The company says the householder is responsible for both sets of pipes.

Called the Home Service Scheme, it costs pounds 45 per annum and offers buyers pounds 150 worth of emergency call-out cover for internal plumbing, and pounds 550 for external problems, without excess.

Critics say Anglian's promotional mailings are unnecessarily alarming. Earlier this year, Anglian was forced by the water services regulator Ofwat to withdraw its promotional material. The regulator felt the risk of plumbing problems had been exaggerated and was concerned that Anglian did not make it clear that household insurance would cover some of the risks.

The current sales message could also be seen as unnecessarily alarming. In the campaign leaflet, the key selling proposition is the claimed need for insurance against damage to underground water pipes connecting houses with the public supply. The sales literature says help can be expensive, as heavy digging equipment may be necessary.

But both Green Flag National Breakdown Home Assistance Services, which offers plumbing insurance, and the AA, which operates an approved contractor referral scheme, state that they only come across this problem once in a thousand calls. Gesa Assistance, however, the underwriting insurer behind Anglian's scheme, says 15-20 per cent of claims to date are for leaks in underground piping.

Whether the Home Service Scheme offers value for money or not depends on your perception of the risk your property presents. If your piping is made of newer plastic or ceramic materials, and you believe your plumbing is in fairly good order, the scheme could be a waste of money.

But if you have an older house, which is liable to problems caused by wear and tear, especially properties with pre-war lead underground piping, this cover may be for you.

The average national emergency job rate for a plumber is pounds 120. Underground digging work can cost hundreds of pounds. The average householder calls out a plumber once every seven years according to the AA; once every four in Green Flag's experience.

Standard home insurance policies cover accidental damage only and often charge excesses of pounds 50 to pounds 100. People interested in emergency cover should check their household policies to avoid being doubly insured.

The plumbing services for Anglian's policy are supplied by a franchise service. Gesa says the scheme is marketed by other water companies besides Anglian, but declined to say which. Thames Water said it has not yet signed up for a plumbing or general household scheme but is keeping a watching brief.

One advantage of belonging to a call-out service is knowing you have an approved practitioner you can rely on, who is guaranteed to arrive within a couple of hours, with limited costs known in advance. This peace of mind can be important when disaster strikes. Too many people are caught by cowboys from the Yellow Pages.

Green Flag sells an emergency breakdown product, which offers cover for plumbing together with other household problems with heating, roofing, electrics, cookers, broken windows and so on.

Premiums ranges from pounds 15.99 to pounds 96 a year. The scheme covers the first four hours of service plus pounds 100 of parts. Seven of the water companies and electrical utilities market this product, including Northeast Water and Yorkshire Water.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Ashdown Group: Training Coordinator - Financial Services

£32000 - £38000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A highly successful, inte...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - Affiliates & Partnerships

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This multi-award winning foreig...

Recruitment Genius: Retirement Coordinator - Financial Services

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: To provide a prompt, friendly and efficient se...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor