Website database check

It was pleasing to read the commendation of askmid.com from Roy Rodger (Letters, 25 October). Undoubtedly this website will assist everyone in ensuring that their own vehicles are appearing correctly on the motor insurance database (MID).

This is becoming increasingly important as the enforcement authorities are, in practice, using the MID as the initial evidence of the existence of valid compulsory third party liability insurance.

This will be even more in evidence when continuous insurance enforcement is introduced in 2009, as the DVLA will be comparing constantly its keeper record with the insurance details on the MID. THere will be warning letters, followed by fines, for those without an insurance record.

Initially, askmid.com was launched into the commercial user community as an aid to encouraging policyholders to ‘push’ their vehicle data on to MID rather than solely relying on the Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB) to ‘pull’ the data through insurers.

Ultimately, it is the legal obligation of policyholders to supply vehicle data to their insurance provider. If they do not do so immediately it is their asset that is at risk of being seized by the police with the consequent inconvenience and costs involved.

The MIB is now increasing awareness of the website through articles in fleet and motor trade publications along with a diesel pump nozzle campaign across motorway service stations.

There are also plans to extend the campaign to all UK motorists.

The debate about the MID becoming the legal proof of insurance will undoubtedly intensify in the near future.

Ashton West, Chief executive Motor Insurers’ Bureau

Brokers not being served well

Andrew Holt’s article,”Why are brokers not being well served?” ( Broker Headaches, 25 October), digs deep into the murky issue of service and insurer/broker relationships.

It rightly focuses on the frustrations felt by brokers, which believe they play a vital role in adding value for their clients and are shackled by poor service and by the call-centre culture.

“Good service costs money,” we’re told. But surely accurate, quick policy documentation isn’t too much to ask for.

Brokers are the insurer’s customers and if local, technically competent underwriting is what they demand, then that’s what they should get.

It’s bad service that costs money, not good service. Bad service costs the insurer delivering it and the broker receiving it.

Poor service really is a cost for brokers. The frictional costs of constantly chasing documents or holding on for a valid response to a query must be enormous, but aren’t always measured by brokers. And what is the impact on broker’s own customers?

Those of us who believe brokers have a long-term role to play in the future of the industry need to stand up and be counted.

Charles Earle, chief executive, Arista Insurance

Failing on medical expenses

Andrew Holt makes some very interesting points when he writes criticising the service provided to brokers by insurers (Broker Headaches, 25 October).

It is only a pity that he restricted his comments to broker service and did not include the level of service insurers supply to direct customers.

It never ceases to amaze me that a member of an insurer’s claims team can deal with a claim without ever having read the relevant policy, or even the relevant section of the policy.

In most cases, it seems that claims handlers do not even know where to put their hands on a copy of the policy. Apparently, interpretation of policy wordings is left to ‘technical teams’.

One area where I feel customers are disadvantaged is under the medical expenses cover in comprehensive private car policies.

Usually, the policy provides something like £250 per person in the car.

I have dealt with dozens of claims where passengers or drivers have been injured, but I have never had an occasion where the insurer has drawn the medical expenses cover to the policyholder’s attention.

When I have mentioned this to the claims handler, the response shows that they have no idea of what the policy covers.

I had a similar experience with a fatal claim when I mentioned payment of the personal accident benefit. Nobody had any idea of what I was talking about.

At a time when the industry is beating the drum constantly about fraud and exaggerated claims, this is an area where the insurers themselves are short-changing their customers on a very considerable scale.

Roy Rodger Insurance Training & Consultancy

Lawn mower liability

In the feature on household policy liability (C-Zone, 18 October), the first paragraph under the sub-heading “Typical exclusions” is incorrect and misleading.

The paragraph implies that an accident with a petrol lawn mower may not be covered under the public liability section of most home insurance policies.

In my experience most home policies exclude mechanically-propelled vehicles other than lawn mowers, garden implements, wheelchairs and models.

Tony Marlow Glynwood Insurance Services

Private investigator rules

In general, I welcome the ABI guidelines on the use of private investigators and applaud the organisation for showing leadership and for providing sound advice to the insurance industry.

No professional or ethical investigator could ever defend the deplorable trade in sensitive personal information and anything that can be put in place as a deterrent is welcomed in my view.

The Information Commissioner makes no secret of the fact that he is looking for custodial sentences for persons breaching s55 of the Data Protection Act.

However, in order to be able to effectively combat insurance fraud, in whatever guise, it is vital that the professional investigator does not find his involvement and service sanitised in law to a point where no meaningful service can be provided.

We must, at all costs, ensure that investigators are never denied the opportunity to utilise their age-old skills of guile and cunning so often successful in exposing insurance fraud.

It is equally vital that we are given sufficient information to do the job. In my view, any information that assists us in fulfilling our obligations to process data accurately and fairly should never be withheld from the investigator, particularly in covert surveillance matters.

Our industry is going through changing times. Never before has so much information been available on our clients’ desktops. Information that for generations has been provided by private investigatorss is now available at the click of a button.

As a result, private investigators are increasingly asked to provide information beyond that which is publicly available. It should be remembered, however, that provision of such information need not always have been illegally obtained.

Pretexts have long been used by private investigators as a means of obtaining crucial information, and I hope that such tactics, in certain circumstances and providing they are used tactfully, shall always remain a recognised necessity in the eyes of the Information Commissioner and legislators.

It is my understanding that the commissioner has suggested that a degree of deception is sometimes acceptable, surely a sensible approach.

Above all however, I believe that the guidelines have highlighted the fact that Insurers should always “know” their investigators. I remain staggered at the very relaxed stance some insurers take when appointing surveillance experts to their panels.

It is not uncommon to be asked by insurers to fill in a 600-page tender document which asks just about every question imaginable, but then fails to ascertain the identity and status of any person who may ultimately stand in their shoes behind the camera.

There can be no point in painstakingly selecting a company on its apparent merits, only to allow that company to use the services of a sub-agent with whom the insurer may have absolutely no relationship or contract.

As insurance fraud becomes more technically advanced, we must all rise to meet the challenge collectively and ethically.

Yes, individuals must be given protection from unauthorised intrusion, but the Data Protection Act must never become the Debtor Protection Act.

Knowing your investigator has never been more important. Who knows, your future liberty may depend on it.

Anthony Heaton, managing director, Mike India 5