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Auto-renew of Automobile

Today I got a letter from my current motor insurer. I couldn’t understand what the letter said until I called up to ask because, in the 24 years I have been buying motor insurance, I have never known a motor insurance company to auto-renew my  policy. They usually want more money.

Sheila’s Steals

Last year I lived in North London, just a few miles from Tottenham where the riots that spread nationwide kicked off last August.

In June 2011, I had my car broken into and nothing was stolen. The break-in happened the night before I was due to drive to Glastonbury, which meant leaving the car in a field for 5 days.

Before leaving, there was much ado with a dust-pan and brush. Cardboard cut-outs had to made to fit the broken windows so that no one was blown out on the M4.

“Non-Claim”

I called Sheila’s Wheels’ claims line. The first option was ‘Windscreen or Glass related’ so I pressed 1. Autoglass answered. When I asked if the claim would affect my no claims bonus, I was told that Sheila’s Wheels called it a ‘Non-Claim’. Autoglass were not allowed to confirm if it would affect my no claims bonus.

You can probably see what Sheila’s Wheels are doing here, with the words ‘non-claim’.

I called Claims again. I spoke to a surly young man who really wanted to be just left to do his job in peace (i.e. just to answer calls from people making claims and not having to go off script). He scolded me for going selecting ‘Windscreen and glass related’ and said I should have selected ‘theft’ from the menu options.

No Claims Bonus

Now, if ‘Windscreen and Glass related’ is not a sign to turn off the road for something ‘windscreen and glass related’, I don’t know what is. So I asked him if I would lose my no-claims bonus, should I claim. He didn’t know and after hearing the words ‘probably not’ a few times, I asked for a solid answer. He came back with yes, ‘you would lose 2 years of your no-claims bonus.’

I said I wasn’t going to claim and he said, ‘now you’ve told me your car has been broken into, it will affect your policy when you renew’. In that moment, I decided not to renew.

Epicentre

Every year I shop around for my next motor insurance policy. I have a five-year no-claims bonus. I have bargaining power. Late last year, I moved to Cornwall and my car now sits in a private off-road parking area.

I wonder if I had renewed with Sheila’s Wheels, had I stayed in London, if my policy would have been valid if I hadn’t voluntarily reminded them that my car had been broken into in 2011. The insurance industry is known, over and above the banking industry, for its understanding of risk.

Keep Things Simple

How many people would be happy to stay with an insurer if they were offered the same price as next year? If people have had no change in circumstances, to catch them out, would they not be happy to keep things simple?

Don’t forget that I had been told that my ‘policy price will be affected next year’ by the fact I had told Sheila’s Wheels that my car was broken into, even though I didn’t make any claim.

Any Fines Madam?

Usually, when I want to renew a policy, I get asked the usual questions before I can even get a quote. ‘Any parking fines or speeding tickets Madam?’ Is my car for ‘business or private use?’ How many miles will I travel? What is my current mileage?

Therefore, I was understandably surprised to receive a letter from my current insurer which informed me that Sheila’s Wheels still believed my policy to be live.

Buy More

Household insurance is a third of the price of motor insurance and the only added risk is the event of a claim – which they would know about – and yet I get more reminders and gentle requests to renew from previous household insurance providers than Harry Potter got invitations to go to Hogwarts.

Of course Sheila’s Wheels only do car insurance. This means they have no commercial incentive to send me gentle reminders to renew my motor policy and alert me to other policies, should I need them. Their answer is to auto-renew my motor policy without me knowing and charge a cancellation fee should I notice or want to renegotiate.

Wouldn’t it be nice if DVLA auto-renewed my tax disc? I buy a new tax disk  at the same time each year and it doesn’t matter where I park or how badly I drive. I still go through hassle each time I have to buy a new one.

Missed Out

When I phoned Sheila’s Wheels, they said they had sent me a letter on 2 January with a motor insurance schedule. I never received this letter or any other communication from Sheila’s Wheels. They missed out on raising their policy price because of the riots in London and therefore increasing the risk of insuring me. Also, motor insurance has actually become more expensive.

This now puts all the onus on me, if I want the ‘convenience’ of running on my insurance policy at last year’s price, to declare any parking or speeding fines, change of usage, address or mileage. If I did have any changes to declare, they would be putting the price up but at least my policy would be valid.

Shopped Around

For 5 years, I renewed my policy with Citroen’s own insurance and never got to renew my policy without an inquisition. Each year, Citroen’s insurance people wanted to put the price up, so much so that I eventually shopped around and jumped ship.

Therefore, Sheila’s Wheels must have been so worried that I would leave them, despite their rock bottom price, so it was safer to auto-renew than offer me the same price as a reward for my loyalty.

Hook Customers In

According to EMB Consultancy LLP, 61% of policyholders shop around for alternative quotes when their policy comes up for renewal. So is this why companies try to hook customers in with sneaky, under the table auto-renewal?

Carry On

I need a proper insurance certificate to get my tax disc. Surely Sheila’s Wheels would know about tax discs, as motor insurers?

Watch out! Companies are finding more sneaky ways to take our money by going to lengths that any decent person would not imagine.

Watch out for auto-renewal of your auto. It’s an absolute con. Dating Direct would be proud of it.

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