Friday, 13 July 2012

More on Post Office home and contents insurance

This is a follow-up to an earlier post about my awful experience with Post Office home and contents insurance.

The Post Office said they were sending me a leaflet with instructions for how to claim the lower premium offered.  If I don’t follow the steps to claim that lower premium, I’m stuck with paying nearly £200 more for my home & contents insurance. It was supposed to be sent out “with your policy documents” and the covering letter I got with the policy documents said it was enclosed. But it wasn’t.

So I rang to ask where it was, and sat through the 1 minute 45 seconds of babble. But this time, I actually listened, because I wanted to see if I’d missed a bit about how paying monthly is effectively taking out a loan agreement, because someone in the call centre had previously claimed that the babble should have made me fully aware of the loan agreement I didn’t know I was taking out. But I still couldn’t hear any mention of loans or credit.

Anyway, I got through to a human and asked where my leaflet was. The man said it would be sent out separately.

“But the covering letter says it’s enclosed.”
“No, it’ll be sent out separately.”

Right. Whatever. I also had a minor amend to the policy, and the small print said I could do this without  charge, provided it was within 14 days of receiving the documents. The minor amend was to do with how close my house was to the nearest watercourse. When I got the quote, I said I wasn’t sure, but I thought it was just over a quarter of a mile away. Then I got my husband to check and it turned out that the nearest bit of the River Windrush is actually bang on a quarter of a mile away. I didn’t want to invalidate my cover with false information, so could they just amend my details to say it was pretty much exactly a quarter of a mile away?

Much fetching-of-supervisors ensued and then the nice man returned to say that the Post Office can’t offer me insurance any more.

Why not?
“Because your house is right by the sea.”
“It’s not the sea, it’s just a river.”
“Right. Well, we can’t offer you insurance. You’re too high-risk.”

That was it. After going through all this crap with the Post Office, I had to find another insurer anyway. (And quickly, because my previous insurance policy lapsed today.) I said I wished I’d never had anything to do with the Post Office, because it’s been a nightmare from start to finish. He apologised.

Then I asked if I’ll get my money back. (I’ve already paid £64.14.)  More fetching-of-supervisors.

The upshot is that I will get cover for the next ten days (until 23rd July) and only have to pay about £9 for this. The rest of the money I’ve paid will be returned, provided I send back the certificate. What certificate? A game of Twenty Questions established that they needed the schedule of home and contents insurance (although he originally demanded “the certificate of motor insurance” before I pointed out that this policy has nothing to do with cars). They will not accept a copy. It has to be the original. But once it’s returned, I get almost all my money back. The bit of money they’re keeping is to pay for the ten days’ cover which I now need as breathing space to put a new policy in place. Which would all be quite reasonable if I hadn’t already been through so much hassle.

To recap:

1. To take out Post Office home & contents insurance, or even get a quote for it, you need to have an occupation that’s already on their list, or pretend you have – but remember, any false information provided may invalidate your cover! 

2. Any joint policyholders will also have to have an occupation that’s already on their list. But you may find out after giving all the other person’s details and having a big wrangle about their job that the policy doesn’t allow joint policyholders anyway.

3. The Post Office promises to “beat your renewal quote by £50”. But if they can’t actually beat it by £50, you’ll only get the renewal-beating price once you’ve taken out more expensive insurance, paid a chunk of money up-front and jumped through a bunch of bureaucratic hoops. There’s also a wait of up to 60 days. (Because I was eventually refused insurance, I’ve been robbed of the chance to find out how long the wait really is and how difficult the hoops really are to jump through. I would love to hear from anybody who got further than me.)

4. Paying monthly involves taking out a credit agreement with a company you’ve never heard of. You will only realise this if you are smarter and more observant than I am. If you’re as dim as me, you will take the question “Would you like to pay monthly?” at face value and say “Yes, please.”

5. The name of the company you have the credit agreement with will be spelled in two different ways on your surprise credit agreement, not improving your confidence with the whole affair.

6. The leaflet explaining how to claim your lower, renewal-beating premium will be enclosed with your policy documents, according to the people you speak to and the covering letter of the policy documents. But it won’t really be enclosed at all, and when you ring back you’ll be told it’s arriving separately.

7. If you ring up to correct what you think is a minor detail on the policy, you may suddenly and unexpectedly be denied the cover you thought you had in place. You will then be forced to sort out insurance with an alternative provider anyway, after wasting hours of your life jumping through Post Office hoops.

8. If the Post Office unexpectedly denies you the cover you thought you had in place, there are more hoops to jump through before they will refund the money you've already paid.

9. Every call you make to try to sort out the mess will begin with a recorded message that lasts 1 minute 45 seconds. By proceeding with your call after this message you are supposedly giving your consent to various things mentioned on the recording. If you, like me, tune out as soon as you hear a recorded voice, you could be giving your consent to the Vogons building a new intergalactic superhighway and you’d be none the wiser.

To recap the recap: Please don’t go with the Post Office for your home & contents insurance, however good the deal looks.

12 comments:

  1. Well, that is outstandlingly crap. I had no idea we had seaside so close. Can you see the beach from your house?
    I have had a couple of incidents with the Post Office in their 'pretending to do banking services' role (though that is Post Office Counters who may or may not be the same, I have lost track), both of which convinced me of the importance of having a bank account with some organisation with real branches rather than one of these ones where you do physical things in the Post Office.

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    1. I agree. This is what puts me off Smile or First Direct. I know you can use the Co-op and HSBC branches for them but that makes me feel like a freeloader, if that makes sense.

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  2. I should say that the village post office near where I work was fine from a doing things at the counter point of view, before it was shut as a cost saving measure.

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    1. It was shut as part of this whole scheme to soften it up for privatisation by pretending we can't afford it. :(

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  3. Have you considered complaining to the Insurance Ombudsman. it is ridiculous in this situation that they are charging you anything at all.

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    1. Hadn't thought of that. I'll think about it. I think the Post Office would argue it's my fault for giving (technically) incorrect information in the first place.

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  4. Anyway, I got through to a human and asked where my leaflet was. The man said it would be sent out separately.
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