Every year, a fortnight before my car insurance expires, there's the dreaded thump on the doormat of the renewal reminder. It always seems to go up by at least £50 over the previous year.
Last year I used the Internet to get the best deal. I tried loads of insurers but couldn't find one cheaper than mine had been the previous year.
I decided to visit local agents in Christchurch. I sat in each office reciting details that were fed into computers. Each time, after a short wait, I was given a figure several tens of pounds greater than I wanted to pay. Each time I declined.
Back to the Internet. There was one insurer I hadn't tried. After all they had been the cheapest when I'd taken out the current policy. I typed in their web address and dutifully answered all the questions. They seemed to know my exact address and, would you believe it, my exact car details, given the registration number. I thought that was a matter between me and Swansea? Clearly no longer. If you need to know about a particular registration number just ask for an insurance quote on it and all will be revealed!
Up came the figure. Good heavens it's £196, that's £70 less than the figure on their renewal notice! There must be some mistake! I called the insurers on the telephone and asked them to provide me with a quote. £266 they said. That's wrong surely I replied. It was only £196 in the on-line quote. "If I were you I'd accept that one then", said the chap on the other end of the phone. I did, and saved £70.
This year the renewal notice for my wife's car arrived and it was £237. I'll just check on the Internet I said, like last year when I insured my own car. I logged on and filled out the details. Again it knew where I lived and it knew exactly what the car was and when it was made. I filled in the last detail and back it came with £178. That's £60 less than the renewal figure! I decided to check the figures on the screen. I spotted a small discrepancy. In the renewal the excess was £100 and on the screen it was £150. "One little accident and all the saving's gone", my wife warned from the sidelines. OK I'll change the excess from £150 to £100. I hit the change button and selected the £100 excess. The screen went blank and re-appeared with a new total figure . £175. Good heavens that's amazing it's £3 less than the quote for the higher excess.
I hit the "BUY" button.
Oops what's this they want to know my present insurer and the policy number!
With tongue in cheek I typed their own name and their policy number from the renewal document. The screen went blank and then back came the confirmation.
I entered my bank details, and the day I wanted the direct debit to go, and that was that I'd saved £62 for a few minutes effort.
Was that all? Not quite. The next day a letter arrived in the post. It had a new insurance policy and details of the direct debit. The figures were all wrong though. The total payment seemed to be higher than I'd remembered so I called back the final page from the depths of the computerwhere a copy of every web page ever accessed is lurking. Sure enough the figures here were as I'd noted them. I rang the free-phone number on the web page. When i received the confirmation, I said, the total figure a lot higher than i'd agreed when I clicked the "buy now" button. The young lady didn't at first understand but seemed to eventually grasp what I was getting at. She said they'd had some difficulty with the website but not to worry they would send me a cheque for the difference.
The next day... no cheque... nor did it arrive the next or the day after that so I sent an e-mail to the chap whose name appeared at the bottom of the confirmation e-mail I'd received initially. Later that day I received a reply. A one off payment would be sent and an investigation would be made on what had gone wrong. So if you're not quick off the mark you can't take advantage of the mistake! I think that when you go for a change to the details and select a lower figure for the excess, the computer at the other end uses the higher excess figure in error.
* I haven't actually got the cheque but I have got the e-mail promising it so I'm fairly comfortable with that!
Surprise surprise.. a nice man from More Th>n sent me £15 of Marks & Sparks vouchers for my trouble.
Have you noticed the symbol for the Iraq invasion coalition by the way? It's the sign for Less Th<n!
* Post-script... the refund arrived!