I refer to page two of the Insurance Times dated February 10 2000: "Insurance rates set to soar" according to five of the UK's biggest insurers. Absolutely correct if your business is through a broker.

However what a pack of lies by www.norwichunion.com. The heading should read: "Insurance rates slashed by trading and dealing direct on the net."

I give your readers two examples:

NU renewal for a Mercedes CLK 230K Sport:
60% PNCD. Two drivers.
-- 1999 renewal premium: £554.36
-- 2000 renewal premium: £841.43
(non negotiable)
However, the www.norwichunion.com quote is £513.27 (identical cover).

New business quote for wife of commercial client:
Renault Clio 60% PNCD. Two drivers.
-- NU broker quote: £424.18 (guaranteed)
-- www.norwichunion.com quote: £183.09

So Norwich Union "Jekyll & Hyde" Insurance Group, including www.norwichunion.com, perhaps you could explain the massive discrepancy in the premiums. What do you want to do business with?

Our potential account with CGNU is £300,000+. Norwich Union, Glasgow, approached us this year with a partnership agreement for growth. "We want to get into bed with you," they say.

Well darling, it is like this, "We are not going to be screwed by a two-faced, two-timing, incompetent, unprofessional partner." We are not prepared to subsidise your direct operation. Our account may mean nothing to you, but multiply this by 500+ and you might just consider keeping your pants on.

Do we have any other brokers interested in a divorce action? Check the rates yourself and let me know.
A McArthur
Logie & McArthur Insurance Brokers,

Phone rage takes its toll
Having driven callers to the point of near-suicide with phone minefields and obliging them to waste time tapping out numbers on phone keypads just to get through to the right department, insurers are now employing another tactic. When they finally do manage to pick up the phone, they simply ask for the query to be faxed over.

Last week two important commercial renewals were due. Both were faxed to Axa (formerly Guardian) and no reply came back, despite a printed log at our end to confirm the fax had been received.

More time was therefore spent on the phone only to be told our faxes could not be found.

The solution that I am now adopting is to charge the insurer £2 for every fax they fail to reply to within 24 hours. In a year's time I will own every insurer in the UK.
Richard Mikula
Topaz Insurance Brokers, London

GISC defends its corner
It is important that I be allowed to correct any misconceptions your readers may have been left with after reading your front-page article on March 16 2000.

Firstly, the headline "GISC TOO LITTLE AND TOO LATE" is a failure to recognise that the changes to the proposals outlined in the second consultation document reflect the necessity to build consensus across the industry and that the delay in launch beyond the original target – it was never a commitment – has arisen precisely because the Board is taking time to listen to the industry.

Secondly, it is widely felt that a single ombudsman facility embracing both financial services and the selling of general insurance best serves the interests of consumers. The Board of GISC envisages that in due course the Financial Ombudsman Service will be in a position to accept GISC members into the facility currently being finalised, on a basis that is both appropriate to their activity as general insurance intermediaries and also fairly funded.

Meanwhile, rather than set up a separate fully-fledged GISC Ombudsman facility with all the problems of subsequent integration into an FOS facility, the Board has decided that a limited customer complaint investigation facility is preferable for the interim period. We continue to work with the FOS on implementing this.

Thirdly, contrary to the two opinions quoted, the fact is that GISC will have appropriate resources to address the important issue of customer complaints, both in terms of qualified personnel and the powers to conduct investigations of our registered members. The means of achieving this in a cost effective way was clearly explained by GISC to Insurance Times and I am greatly concerned that your article did not convey all the facts in your possession to offer your readers a balanced report.

Finally, I would recommend that your readers refer to the full text of our recent press release, which is available on our website www.gisc.co.uk, which we specifically requested journalists at the press briefing to publicise.
Chris Woodburn
Chief Executive GISC

Mystified by buildings cover
In response to "Mystified by Vehicle Variation", the same applies to buildings and contents cover.

I have today been made aware that RSA are quoting through LloydsTSB £148 for £150,000 worth of buildings cover in a BR1 4 postcode.

The same cover through the Choices Extra product is £244.

The road where this risk is placed is very high for subsidence and should we have placed the risk through them it would not have been accepted.

However, due to it being on a block policy, they can reduce the premium and take on the risk without referral.

This seems as if there are double standards in place again, and the difference in premium shows that RSA are now not wanting to do business with brokers in the local area.
David Burn
company withheld

Mismatched mergers
The exciting news that CGU, following their previous seamless merger, are to join forces with Norwich Union, has set the mind racing here, as no doubt it has in insurance offices up and down the country.

I would like to share with you my thoughts on other possible non-insurance ventures that might just match the envisaged success of this operation:

-- The Millennium Dome and Swindon FC;
-- Marks and Spencer and the Happy Shopper chain;
-- Harrods and Poundstretcher…

I could go on, but my efforts must be concentrated in fighting off a hostile bid from Leonard's Florists, the shop next door. I know that everyone will wish me luck in the corporate jungle that I must enter.
Michael Butler
Prestige Insurance

Cutting costs or cutting corners?
Re your "The grey suits must learn home truths" article (IT, March 16), which discussed a press release that I wrote on behalf of Bacon & Woodrow.

The actual statement from the press release was: "…expenses and commissions, which currently stand at 40p in the £1, still offer room for improvement for those companies who are able to make savings with more streamlined processes".

How you decided his should be interpreted as a call to cut service levels in the industry is a mystery to me. Commission and expenses in household insurance really are too high, mainly because of inefficiency and redundancy right through the supply chain. You only have to look at the huge range of expense ratios for individual household insurers to see that lower expense ratios can be achieved without compromising service.

Finally, I am an insurance consultant specialising in strategic underwriting for personal lines, not a "bean counter", and my suit is a very colourful blue.
Ed Plowman
Insurance Consultant
Bacon & Woodrow, London