March is the time of year my home insurance comes up for renewal.  This year I took the time to shop around using online price comparisons, and found a far better deal than my existing insurer.  No great surprise there.

I gave it a while to mull over, and read the new insurer’s cover in detail.  Compared to the old one it’s actually rather more comprehensive.  For just over half the price!  OK, let’s order this one, and cancel the old one.

The renewal notice from the old one has a freephone line.  So I ‘phoned it, and after a couple of menus I was through to a customer service person.  He was of course keen to quote me the best deal (and was perfectly pleasant about it) so I agreed to let him give me a quote.  When he mentioned a very low excess, my reaction was one of Good Lord!  In that case I should’ve claimed when my friend’s dog ripped my coat! Before that conversation it hadn’t even crossed my mind to claim on insurance for that.

His reaction was instant and clearly automatic: I should have been able to claim against my friend’s insurance.  Yep, it’s all about shifting liability.  My reaction was a slightly-horrified What?  It’s hardly something to go around suing my friends over!

Two different mindsets, and the insurers win because people don’t claim.  But what if I got over my instinctive revulsion at the idea of suing my friend?  Just treated it as a business transaction: no hard feelings, no guilt?  That’s what I should be doing in my insurer’s world!  They’re pushing us into being cold, calculating, and ruthless.  Discounting such nebulous irrelevancies as friendship.

From where I sit, that’s a big hurdle to making a claim.  But if I were to cross that hurdle, surely the logical next step is on to fraud, as in let’s just lump in existing damage or wear-and-tear with what the dog did[1].  That step is surely much smaller than the hurdle I’ve crossed to claim against my friend.  And from there it’s small steps to much bigger fraud.

It seems a logical conclusion that insurers have only themselves to blame when they suffer large scale fraud, such as staged car accidents.  They’ve trained us to think that way!

Oh, and yes I did switch my home insurance.  As well as my stuff (which I’m unlikely to claim for unless I suffer catastrophic loss like a big fire or burglary), it explicitly covers things like tenant liability if I were to burn down my landlord’s property, and of course the usual third-party things if I were held liable for something while out walking or cycling.

[1] there wasn’t any with the coat in question, which was brand new just a week earlier. But that’s not the point!

Posted on March 19, 2011, in insurance. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Yes, they really are insewerants!!! I love the word you coined. As I don’t do our insurance I have been spared your experience; nevertheless I get upset each time I come across the adverts by the legal classes urging people to claim against someone else for ordinary minor mishaps. “No win, no fee” is their touting for business slogan. No doubt they take a hefty slice before passing on the residue of the “compensation” to the non-paying client.
    No wonder that fear of litigation is stifling our society – and endangering friendships.

  2. I didn’t coin the word! Ask your husband, or any of your children or grandchildren (with one exception)!

  3. Oh dear!

    It just shows my ignorance, or perhaps the sad fact that I once tried to read Discworld and did not get it. Have never opened a Terry Pratchett book since. Maybe I should try once more seeing how the rest of you devour them with immense glee.

  4. I love the analysis. But I’m also left thinking: even if they have trained us to defraud them, why would they care? So long as they take enough precautions that the fraudulent claims are shared out more-or-less evenly between companies, all that happens is that premiums across the board rise, and innocent people (or “suckers”, as they’re known in the business) have to pay more.

    From the insurer’s point of view, they can’t lose.

    I think it’s a manifestation of the diseased mental worldview in which everyone is assumed to be motivated entirely by selfishness. If you haven’t yet seen Adam Curtis’s ‘The Trap’, I’ve linked to it a couple of times now…

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