Valentine's Day brings out a carefree approachto romantic liaisons, but insurers have most of the risks well covered
Perhaps it’s the romantic streak across the industry that makes so many insurers use Valentine’s Day to sell their products.
This year, for example, Allianz Musical Insurance is suggesting that any would-be Romeos thinking of serenading the love of their life from a ladder beneath their balcony should cease and desist.
"Some of our policyholders have come up with some ingenious ways to damage their instruments so we have become quite expert in providing risk management advice,” says an Allianz spokesman. “The advice in this case is quite simple: Please don't try climbing a ladder while playing a guitar or violin - it could seriously damage your health and your instrument."
Pulling at people’s heartstrings is nothing new. In the past:
• At least two pet insurers have passionately pointed to surveys showing a significant proportion of women love their pets more than their partners (34% according to Swiftcover and 36% according to Marks & Spencer). They suggest the pet lovers’ partners buy pet insurance or end up in the dog house.
• Several household insurers have pointed out that those most expensive of gifts, diamonds, are not forever if lost or stolen. They suggest that Cupid check his cover levels for individual items.
• Two years ago Privilege Insurance offered couples cheaper car insurance for Valentine’s Day with its insured and partner scheme,
• Many travel underwriters warn those heading for a dirty weekend to celebrate Valentine’s Day that travel insurance is essential.
Weddings are a big issue for Ecclesiastical Insurance. It covers 95% of all the UK’s Anglican Churches, plus many Methodist and other denominations, including several Catholic churches. But the weddings themselves have posed little liability risk to the vicars and priests, so far. It is the receptions where the fun and games start.
“We cover lots of heritage buildings and these are becoming increasingly popular as wedding reception venues,” explains an Ecclesiastical spokeman. “Because it is quite a ‘jolly’ day, the reception is when accidents tend to happen.” At that stage, as they say, it’s not just the wedding cake that’s in tiers.
But most claims fall on the bride and groom’s wedding policy. Cakes have been knocked over, wedding dresses ripped, torn and stained and, even economics can take its toll on a wedding.
Ecclesiastical has dealt with wedding list companies that have gone bust, replacing all the items that had been ordered and paid for by the guests. For a couple who booked a snow machine to guarantee a white wedding, the insurer had to find a replacement at the last minute after the supplier collapsed.
Another couple who had stored 130 small gifts for their wedding guests in their loft dug them out just short of the wedding to discover rats had infested and feasted on their favours. And the recent floods forced some couples to cancel – even if the bride and groom could get to the church on time, many of the guests could not.
“It doesn’t take much to turn the most memorable day of your life for all the right reasons into the most memorable day of your life for all the wrong reasons,” says the Ecclesiastical spokesman.
For some, Valentine’s Day is about less of the old, new and borrowed and more about the blue. Sex shops and strippers need cover. Even Ann Summers parties have potential liability issues if someone literally gets their knickers in a twist.
A well-known condom manufacturer was once sued by a lady who got pregnant when a condom split during her Saturday afternoon romp (presumably not in the football season). She sued for the full cost of rearing her child, but after solid defence from the liability insurer, the judge ruled against her, suggesting that she could have taken the morning after pill. The truth is often stranger than fiction.
But when it comes to fiction, the doyen of bizarre insurance is British Insurance boss Simon Burgess. In addition to stunts about alien abduction he once claimed to have covered someone against the risk of being impregnated by aliens.
Just five years ago he penetrated the Valentine market with Cocksure, a product bought by ladies covering themselves against the risk that their prospective partners might prove impotent. Burgess claims to have sold many products and received no claims.
Burgess, whose business has just become part of Towergate, concentrates on unemployment, sickness and accident polices sold cheaply to as wide an audience as possible. “We have pole dancers and ladies of the night and they are covered against back ache and headaches,” he says.
Sexually transmitted diseases are a standard exclusion but HIV is not. “It is fun and frivolous but there is a serious side to what we do. We take a non-discriminatory approach to income protection and it has proved a sensible approach. We have very low claims incidence and very low loss ratios,” he says.
But for at least one man in the insurance market, Valentines Day is no fun at all. He is chief pricing officer at reinsurer Scor. He has worked in the insurance industry for 30 years. And has been a member of the Financial Services Authority’s advisory body the Insurance Standing Group since it was founded. His name is Brian Valentine.
“My wife gets upset that we don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day, but I hate it because I have always been ribbed about it,” he says. “I tell her that, for her, every day is a Valentine’s day.”