Sunday, 15 July 2012


Like millions of others, we pay our car insurance premiums each month, month in, month out, and apart from the odd call to Green Flag Breakdown (which we pay as a supplement to our premium) we have never had an accident nor claimed on our policy.

Up to now we have been a one car family. Steve drops me at Bromley station each morning and I catch the train to West Malling. I actually enjoy the journey. It's 40 minutes of peace, when I can read papers, listen to the Today programme on my Ipod or simply clear my thoughts and plan the day. I am fortunate to travel away from the crowds, so I can always get a seat, and the train fare (£10.70) is cheaper than the petrol and parking.

However, when we move, this will be considerably more difficult and we will need a second car, which, purely by chance, I found last week. A price was agreed and I was due to pick it up tomorrow. It's a Jaguar X Type. It may be second hand, but it's in fabulous condition and looks lovely.

Searching for insurance on Compare the Market I found a company (Liverpool Victoria) who quoted £380, which sounded reasonable. Before I could buy the policy I needed proof of my no claims discount.  I called Churchill Insurance to confirm my entitlement only to be told I didn't have any no claims discount. Apparently, they paid a claim on my policy last year.  'But I haven't made a claim', I said.  Yes, in March. 'No, I can assure you, I have never claimed on my insurance."  On and on it went. Finally, they put my through to their claims department.

It transpires that in February last year, driving back from Swindon on the M4, our car broke down (which is true). We called Green Flag (whose services we pay for via a supplement on our policy). Green Flag were unable to fix the car and asked if we would like to be towed home (which we, of course, accepted). It transpires that the tow home was not covered by our Green Flag Breakdown Cover, and the cost of the service was paid by Churchill (as a claim on our policy, thus invalidating our no claims discount).  At no point were we told the tow was not covered by our Breakdown Policy. Nor were we told that payment would invalidate our no claims discount. Had we known we would have paid the £280 and retained our 40% discount. As a consequence of losing my no claims discount, the quote to insure my new car has increased from £380 to almost £900.

When I queried this with the claims adviser I was told they sent me two letters (if they did, I never received them). Interestingly they are unable to send copies as they are 'system generated' and file copies are not retained. How convenient. Under pressure and questioning, she started stumbling. "We also phoned you to discuss the situation".  Oh did you, when did you call, what time and on which number?  Conveniently, although she was certain they called, she had no record of the date!   At this point I was seething. I told her that under the Data Protection act I was entitled to submit a ‘subject access request' which requires them to send me a transcript of the conversation.

I can predict now, with absolute certainty, the transcript will never arrive,. It won't arrive because they never called. As anyone who knows me will confirm, I have the memory of an elephant. I can recall verbatim conversations I had 5 years ago. If someone had called me from Churchill insurance to tell me I had lost my no claims discount, I would have remembered.

Twice in recent years I have twice taken on big multi nationals and won. One case involved an electricity supplier who sent us an invoice for £1,800 for electricity on a property we had left four years earlier. After an initial exchange of letters and calls to establish the 'facts' I wrote to them by registered post and said if they continued to pursue their unjust and unproven claim, I would charge them £50 for every 15 minutes I spent dealing with the matter.  Each time they wrote, I replied in full, and sent them an invoice. After 4 months my invoices amounted to £850. Their letters became increasingly threatening and menacing. I stood my ground.  A County Court Summons arrived. I counter claimed for the cumulative total of my time. The day before the court case I received a call from their legal department. As a gesture of goodwill (!) they were dropping their claim. I declined their offer and said I looked forward to meeting them in County Court the next day. Having tried to threaten, bully and intimidate me for six months, they actually told me to "be reasonable". I responded by sending them another invoice for a further £50 to cover my additional time they had wasted phoning me.  Later that afternoon they called again and agreed not only to withdraw their claim, but to settle my own claim in full and apologies for their error. I dread to think how many thousands of people, especially those who are old, vulnerable or easier to intimidate than me, would have paid up to avoid being taken to court.

I look forward to future developments with Churchill and I will keep you informed. Until it's resolved, I officially have zero no claims discount, and will either have to pay a massive premium or do without my car.   Any suggestions...?

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