LIam Vaughan says Biba is right to raise the issues over NU's decision to drop DOC cover

A firm, platonic pat on the back to Biba for dusting off its wellies and wading fearlessly into the quicksand that is the current furore surrounding Norwich Union's (NU) plans to drop the 'driving other cars' (DOC) extension from its NU Direct motor policies.

While it seems remarkable that such a seemingly innocuous incident has aroused such furious debate, the issue raises serious issues for brokers.

DOC provides policyholders with third party cover when driving any other vehicle with the owner's permission and has historically been a feature of most fully comp and some third party fire and theft policies.

According to the Greenaway report on uninsured driving, DOC will get in the way of the effective running of the motor insurance database, particularly once automatic number plate recognition is introduced later this year.

Several insurers also claim the cover is widely abused by sneaky policyholders looking to drive a more powerful vehicle without stumping up the correct premium.

The problem for brokers lies in the lack of consistency. Some policies offer DOC without restrictions, while others stipulate the second car must be insured. Some insurers attempt to confine use to 'emergencies' and adjust their policy wordings accordingly, while others leave that judgment to the policyholder.

One of responsibilities of the broker is to provide reasoned advice to their customers on exactly what different policies offer, but that is very difficult when there is such widespread confusion.

Perhaps more worrying is the steadfast refusal of direct insurers Churchill, Direct Line and Admiral to consider removing what they describe as a "genuine customer benefit".

One of Biba's concerns is that brokers will end up in a situation where they are offering to clients not only a more expensive product, but also an inferior one compared to those of their direct rivals.

The removal of DOC also places greater responsibility on brokers to communicate policy changes to their members. If policyholders have been insured with the same company for five years and have always had DOC, there is a very real danger that they will inadvertently find themselves driving uninsured without even realising it.

Leaving insurance experts aside, most people have better things to do than study the minutia of their latest renewal slip - and who can blame them? But if a broker's customer did have a crash and found himself inadvertently without cover, you can guarantee that it would be the broker who would get it in the neck.

It is down to Biba to raise these issues and make sure the broker is not the loser in all of this. IT