Jim Jarratt makes a very valid point in his article “First-class treatment” (Insurance Times, August 30) about the treatment of third-party claims.

I transferred my motor insurance to Norwich Union (NU) after being impressed by its service when my son was involved, as an innocent third party, with one of their insured. In my son's case, a claim department official contacted him within 48 hours of the claim being reported and a generous offer was made within seven days of inspection of his vehicle.

After about two years of insuring with NU, my car suffered damage by vandalism. Although the simple claim was eventually settled satisfactorily, I had the frustration of dealing firstly with a call centre, presumably outsourced, and then not being able to speak to the same person twice. I have had the same unsatisfactory experience when dealing with clients' claims.

Of course, insurance companies are not the only organisations that rely on call centres – there are many places one has to go through what seems like an eternity of listening to instructions to “press button 1 for abc and press button 2 for xyz'' and so on.

Perhaps in a few years' time, some marketing genius or, as they seem to be known now, customer relationship manager, will realise that brokers and clients just want to be able to speak to the same person about a case, whether it is related to claims or underwriting.

Today, much is written about customer relations management as though it were a whole new concept which had not been thought about, say, 30 years ago.

Then it was known as something different, such as customer service, which seems to have gone out of the window with the adoption of the call centre as the panacea for all ills.

What happened to the strict standard of “all calls to be answered within three rings”?
Frank Galbraith
Hope Valley

Incompatible professions
I have just completed reading Kathryn McCarthy's excellent article ‘‘Adjusters v assessors'' in IT2 (September 2001). There are, however, several points that require commenting on.

The implication in the article seems to be that loss assessors are inferior to adjusters because they do not possess industry recognition. Nothing can be further from the truth.

A loss assessor could not possibly be regarded as impartial, as he/she could not represent the claimant effectively. The only exception to this bias would be in a business interruption claim, where advice given to the claimant is also in the interest of the insurer.

Recognition and acceptance are two different things – the former being de jure and the latter being de facto.

Loss adjusters obtain their qualifications after five years' in practice within a firm of chartered loss adjusters. They act solely on behalf of insurers, have to pass the institute's examination and must act impartially (which is self-contradictory). It is also not a part of their training to prepare the claim, but to adjust.

Loss assessors act solely on behalf of policy-holders suffering losses. They have gained the experience of preparing detailed claims and negotiating satisfactory settlements by being employed for many years with an established firm of loss assessors. They become qualified by the experience obtained. The definition of “qualified'', referring to Collins Concise Dictionary, is: “Having the abilities, qualities, attributes, etc. necessary to perform a particular job or task'', which is what an experienced loss assessor has.

Loss adjusters are trained to go for the minimum, whereas we loss assessors have been trained to go for the maximum. That is the subtle, but costly, difference to the claimant.

It is a foregone conclusion that any sensible businessman, in the vent of a claim, would wish to appoint a professional loss assessor.

Malcolm Harvey argues, erroneously I might add, that assessors should ‘‘bite the bullet'' and join the Chartered Institute of Loss Adjusters (CILA). He should know better, because the two disciplines are incompatible. As the core activity of loss assessors is the detailed preparation of claims and negotiating satisfactory claims conclusions, CILA would be probably unable to admit loss assessors without a change to their royal charter, If this were to occur, it would dilute their industry recognition.

I must challenge the incorrect assumption that the future of loss assessors lies in the hands of insurers, as they direct their clients towards whichever is the favoured route for claims settlements. It has never been the insurers' prerogative to interfere with the claimants rights as to whom they should appoint to represent their interest.
Henry M Harris
Harris Claims Group

NU congratulated
The biggest individual commercial fire loss suffered in the recent, well publicised Bradford riots, which occurred on July 7 to 8, was the total destruction of the BMW Lister Park Garage, which is part of the JCT600 group of companies.

Loss adjusters were on site on Sunday, July 9. On the following Tuesday and Wednesday, in-depth meetings took place between all the relevant parties within the insurance chain. By Friday, July 13, a payment on account was transferred to the policyholders' bank account for a seven-figure sum. A few days later, a further substantial figure was paid. By Monday, July 23, less than two weeks since the fire, JCT was in a position to open new temporary premises. These new premises were fully kitted out to high standards and a full range of new and second-hand BMW vehicles made available for sale in spotless condition within the show rooms, as well as mirroring all the other services available previously at Lister Park.

It was a rewarding experience to be a witness to a situation where a very responsive policyholder, working night and day in qualifying the claim and, at the same time, in mitigating their losses, is rewarded by a responsive and excellent insurance company by making substantial payment in record time.

Congratulations, Norwich Union, for the excellent service provided.
H Allan Thew
Group managing director
W Denis Insurance Brokers

Getting it right
It would be useful to know whether, after Andrew Paddick has “written to brokers inviting them to join IBRC Mk2'' (letters, Insurance Times, September 27), he will only reveal the professional standards expected once they have actually joined. An invitation surely cannot be considered until one knows what the requirements will actually be!

Judged by the huge consultation processes endured with the General Insurance Standards Council (GISC) – and that is still far from perfect – he will be far better advised to get it right first before asking for commitment. It could just be that, at the end of the day, IBRC Mk2 will not be greatly different from GISC – other than regulating only professional brokers. If that is the case, professional brokers may not think it worth changing horses. Being exclusively professional is fine, but not if it becomes more burdensome and/or the GISC has raised the standards of the remainder in the meantime.

Some have continuing doubts about the GISC rulebook and, if Mr Paddick can successfully overcome these, then who knows what may be the result?
R A Pridmore
Insurance Gravesend

Ignorance is threat
No wonder the insurance world is confused on the mould issue when articles as misleading as David Clifton's (technical manager at Munters) are published (“Something in the air'', Insurance Times, September 27).

The reference to W.coli (which I assume is E.coli) as a mould indicator, from a washing machine flood, is amazing. E.coli is a sewage bacteria and would not appear in mould or grey water flood.

Sampling for bacteria as dangerous as E.coli is essential following a sewage flood and £65 for insurance seems cheap in return for competent action to ensure claim and liability closure.

To insinuate the one-day Aerotech seminar was a “road show'' is a travesty – it was a dissemination of scientific information.

The threat to the industry and incompetent contractors is not mould or asbestos, but ignorance of established hazards. With liability claims for mould possibly extending to 15 years, insurers and contractors should acknowledge that mould is not a problem, but is a liability where incompetence is concerned.
Jeff Charlton
Technical director
Phoenix International Consultancy