I write in response to Insurance Times readers who have recently felt compelled to complain about our handling of the Independent situation – a situation which is a) not of our making and b) without precedent in our experience.

Firstly, the issues raised by Stephen E Hewett, (Letters, Insurance Times, July 26). We strongly refute Mr Hewett's claim that we did not show a £20 policy fee clearly in our documentation. We always clarify any fees, charges and insurance premium tax (IPT).

We asked Insurance Times to contact Mr Hewett on our behalf asking him to produce the alleged “offending” documentation. Mr Hewett declined to contact us. Again, we would ask Mr Hewett to contact us and produce the documentation in question. If we have made a genuine error, we will apologise and compensate Mr Hewett's client.

Secondly, MJ Medforth of Hedon Insurance Consultants (Letters, Insurance Times, August 2) is aware that the case he refers to concerns a premium outstanding on a direct debit facility. We would normally have paid Mr Medforth's commission in May – we did not and we apologise for this oversight.

In June, when the Independent situation happened, we were legally advised to freeze all monies held by Road Runner on behalf of Independent until the position was clarified by the provisional liquidators. It remains unclear.

We have already publicly stated that we are prepared to waive the policy fee charge. Without a major software re-write, we could not delete it from our documentation.

Mr Medforth is wrong in his allegation that we are not paying commission on transferred policies – we are paying as normal.

As chairman of Road Runner, any complaints are my responsibility. However, any complaint made to the Association of Insurance Intermediaries and Brokers (AIIB) about Road Runner would, of course, be dealt with independently by one of the other AIIB board members due to the obvious conflict of interest. To date, no formal complaint has been received.

We take these criticisms seriously, but we also consider it important to present the facts. We have therefore taken an advertisement in this issue of Insurance Times that clarifies our position.

Also, Peter Richards' letter (Insurance Times, August 2) has puzzled me. It's obviously “Have a go at Mike Slack” week, but lets get the facts straight, shall we?

The AIIB is not a regulatory authority – it is a trade association. Perhaps Mr Richards is referring to the Association of British Insurers (ABI) code of practice, which Road Runner did abide by before the company became a General Insurance Standards Council (GISC) member.

Mr Richards is obviously also confused about my voluntary role on the GISC board.

I am not a regulator. I sit on the GISC board to represent the interests of smaller intermediaries and brokers and fight for the level playing field that Mr Richards seems to mock.

I would welcome a call from Mr Richards if he needs further clarification of any of the above points.
Mike Slack
Chairman, Road Runner Group and chairman, AIIB

Holding up the process
I acknowledge and applaud the extremely good coverage and assistance Insurance Times is giving to the Independent campaign. However, from all I have read and discussed with other parties, there seems to be an area which has not received the level of focus I would have thought it deserves.

I would like to enquire whether any broker readers had clients insured with Independent Insurance and had a claim running through at the time of the insolvency, where they or their clients felt delays were being placed in the way of settlement by:

  • totally unreasonable requests for large amounts of unnecessary and sometimes unavailable information
  • protracted correspondence on issues that, in certain cases, were irrelevant.

    Could readers who respond to me please identify the person/s at both the loss adjusting company and at Independent who were handling that particular matter.
    Nicholas Balcombe
    Chief executive
    Balcome Group
    24 Plimpton St
    London NW8 8AB

    Polyurethane panels
    I regret to inform you that the erroneous use of the word “polyurethane” instead of the correct word “polystyrene” in reference to composite panels in your main feature “The final collapse” (Insurance Times, June 21) continues to cause confusion, because the abridged version of my letter (Insurance Times, July 17) on behalf of the British Rigid Urethane Foam Manufacturer's Association (Brufma) omitted the analysis of the problem in food processing factories and the summary of the technical data underpinning the performance of polyurethane-cored panel systems.

    As a full technical presentation is not possible here, the document Brufma/ID/2/2001 on our website ( brufma.co.uk ) gives additional data, including the references quoted here.

  • Building envelopes and stand-alone cold stores: These panel systems have been used worldwide for building envelopes and stand-alone cold stores for 30 years with an unblemished record. Moreover, they have been shown to give a good fire performance in several full-scale fire tests (refs 1, 2, 3 and 4).

    The initial large-scale tests carried out in 1969 by the Fire Research Station (FRS, now BRE) in co-operation with the fire offices committee of the tariff insurance companies, the pre-cursor of today's Loss Prevention Council (LPC), have been reported in ref 1.

    The conclusions were also summarised by the director of the FRS in his 1969 annual report (ref 5) as: “Fire did not spread in the foam core” and “There was no undue production of smoke within the building from the decomposition of the foam in the panels, nor were the levels of toxic products liberated within the fire area such as to create any additional hazard” (compared to the mineral wool insulated control building). These conclusions have never been challenged in 30 years of use.

  • Food processing factory partitions: In the past decade, there have been several fires in UK food processing factories which, in nearly all cases, as documented in the LPC's RC25 publication, used composite panel systems with polystyrene cores. These fires prompted the LPC (technical advisers to UK insurers) to issue LPS1208 (ref 8), which prescribed the fire performance requirements for food factory internal partitions to eliminate the panel systems, identified by the LPC as giving premature (about two minutes) delamination (loss of integrity). Such systems were often used “free-standing”, which exacerbated this poor performance.

    Brufma members have co-operated with the LPC to obtain a superior performance in fire resistance terms, as determined by BS476: Part 22 (ref 9) and LPS1181 (ref 13), of polyurethane-cored panel systems compared to those that have traditionally been accepted for building envelopes, which were initially accepted with a 15-minute resistance rating. This is significant since the fire risk in food factories is universally recognised as being greater than that associated with building envelopes or stand-alone cold stores (ref 6).

    Although the performance of the complete panel systems must be determined, the core products behave differently when subjected to heat. Polyurethane is a thermosetting product which merely slowly chars and pyrolyses, while polystyrene melts and may produce burning droplets.
    For further information contact Brufma's chief executive, GW Ball on 0161 236 7575 or email gwball@brufma.co.uk

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