Mr Hardy's clients are indeed fortunate having a broker who knows them well enough to recall their personal data (5 September, Insurance Times).

His type of broker is, sadly, in the minority, indeed, an endangered species. Selling insurance over the internet is just another step in the procession away from the days when a broker would face his client across a counter. He would check his proposal form with him before handwriting a cover note and posting (yes, posting) the documents to the insurer.

The majority of the 38 million drivers who have arranged personal motor insurance will have done so by telephone or by automated quotation system, without any contact with the broker or insurer, other than to reply to scripted questions.

What, I ask, is the difference between reading the questions on an internet screen and then keying in my answers and, on the other hand, talking to a call centre.

As I see it, both systems are equally impersonal, and if a customer wishes to lie or impersonate, no one system is better than the other.

Naturally, the system has to ask the questions correctly in the first place. If a system asks about convictions and omits reference to fixed penalty offences, or if it misses an obvious hidden young driver, the insurers deserve all they get.

Apart from asking clear, unambiguous questions, what else does Hardy think the internet proposal should do?

Should it ask each question twice, the second version being prefaced by "Are you sure.....? Remember, the proposer still has to sign a declaration at the end of the form, and the wording of this declaration has been agreed with insurers as being clear and robust.

The broker's knowledge is not always passed on either. I have experience of brokers shifting cases and presenting "clean" proposal forms, despite their having handled claims and convictions when dealing with previous insurers - a case of the broker not checking his records rather than any attempt to mislead, I hasten to add.

Clearly this initiative by the supermarket affects not just brokers like Hardy, but the rest of the market as well.

The answer, however, is not to pick holes, but to see it as a challenge, not as a threat. In other words, learn our lessons more quickly than we did in the aftermath of the entry of direct writers.

On a final note, maybe Hardy is better off without these clients, given their cavalier approach to lying. He can only talk about the information he knows about, how many lies have they told him.

Roy Rodger
Technical & training consultant
Motor Investigation Agency

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