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According to the Car Phone Warehouse:
A mobile phone is stolen every minute in the UK One in three people surveyed have lost their phone or had it stolen Around half of all street crime involves the theft of a mobile phone
I'm not convinced that it's quite the crime wave they are making it out to be but mobile phone insurance is absolutely essential. As handsets get smaller and are therefore more inclined to slip out of handbags and pockets, you need some insurance against the loss. That handset that was free at connection will cost an awful lot more to replace.
Why Choose Carphone Warehouse?
Although I mainly use a company line, I also have a personal line and as such needed to have insurance on it too. I connected my line through the Carphone Warehouse so insuring it there seemed like the easiest option. I also thought that it would be a strong benefit to be able to come into a store to deal with any potential claims, rather than having to phone a call centre and Carphone Warehouses are prolific - there are four or five in my city alone.
What policies are available?
Insurance through the Carphone Warehouse is called Lifeline and is available in four variants - two for pre-pay customers and two for post-pay customers.
Is for Pre-Pay Customers Costs £19.99 for three years Covers against damage but NOT theft or loss Has £10.00 excess
Is for Pre-Pay Customers Costs 96p per week Covers against damage and theft but NOT loss Has £19.50 excess
Is for Post-Pay Customers Costs £1.73 per week Covers against damage, loss, theft and unauthorised calls Does NOT cover against theft from a car Has £29.50 excess
If for Post-Pay Customers
Costs £2.12 per week Covers against damage, loss, theft and unauthorised calls Also covers against theft from a car You can claim to buy out a contract Has £29.50 excess
I chose Lifeline Complete because for the money, the cover is excellent and covers pretty much any eventuality I could think of.
Before You Make A Claim
Even if you suspect that you MAY Have lost your phone, have a bar placed on the phone immediately. It can always be removed if you find the phone at a later date. If you make a claim for loss, where you have failed to notify the service provider within 24 hours of suspecting / noting the loss, the claim may well be invalid. Similarly, you should always report the loss to your local police station, in case somebody hands it in. Retain the IME number (usually found underneath the battery) and provide this to the police. They will in turn give you a reference number that is essential when making a claim on the policy. The insurers will NOT pay out for loss when it is not reported to the police "within reasonable timescales." If your phone is forcibly removed from your person, or you have reason to believe that it has been stolen, then again you must always report this to the police. You should give a full statement and then again, you will be required to give the crime reference number when you make a claim.
Always ensure that you have taken every reasonable step to report your loss / theft and that you have done everything possible to prevent fraudulent use. Insurance companies are notorious for finding reasons not to pay out - don't give them any excuse! I am pleased to say, however, that CPW pay out on 90% of claims made on their policies.
Making a Claim
For my two claims, I went instore as I felt that this would speed up the process. As an inherently suspicious soul, I also like to be able to confirm names and descriptions of staff members spoken to. You can, however, also make a claim via the call centre.
The claims process is very simple. Provided you have fulfilled the criteria in the previous section, you shouldn't have any problems. You are asked a serious of questions after which the system will make a decision (the computer doesn't usually say no) and the shop is then normally authorised to replace the item there and then. The shop CAN request that the claim is referred to an underwrite for further consideration. They should tell you when they do this and why (I'm not sure if they are obliged to) and under these circumstances, you'll probably have to wait 48-72 hours for a decision. You will be required to sign a declaration that the claim is genuine and you will then have to cough up the excess before you can have your goods.
Much criticism is made of the excess on insurance policies and £29.50 is higher than others on the high street. For me, this still represents a great saving - my handset would cost over £300 to replace if I purchased a new one and if it will keep the cost of the policies down, I am satisfied with this as a measure to try and prevent fraudulent claims.
How is the Claim Fulfilled?
A number of options may occur if the handset is lost or stolen. If your handset is a current model, and the store has a new one in stock, you will be given a new handset there and then. If the model is current but no stock is available, you may decide to wait until stock becomes available. If the model is discontinued and no stock is available, you will then be given the nearest equivalent to what you had. This isn't normally open to negotiation - the store staff have clear guidelines, but do satisfy yourself that you aren't being fobbed off, and ask them to justify the comparison.
If the handset is damaged, it MAY be sent away for repairs, according to the extent of the damage - CPW reserves the right to make this decision. Some stores are NOT authorised to make the decision in store and the handset may therefore be sent away for appraisement. This can take a couple of days but under the terms of the policy, you will be provided with a spare handset to use in the mean time.
If you are claiming to settle an airtime contract, you must have held the contract for at least three months. The excess is still payable, your contract will then be cancelled and (normally) you will keep the handset you were given. This is a curious option for me and I can't see how it is in the insurer's interests to offer this condition. I wouldn't recommend this if you are planning to take out further contracts / insurance - I'm informed that it counts as a big black mark in your insurance history.
So I Just Get a Brand New Handset?
Almost, yes. But it's not QUITE as simple as that.
The policy operates on a new for old basis but the cover only extends to the ACTUAL items lost or stolen. So, if you, for example, have purchased a leather case for your phone, this is unlikely to be replaced under the policy. Furthermore, when you lose / have your handset stolen, the insurance works on the premise that it is only the handset that is affected, so they don't give you the box, charger or other accessories. This means that if you wanted to trade your handset in at the end of the contract you would have to put the handset in the old box - not a problem for the shops, but something to be aware of.
Where can I Find the Details?
You will be sent a policy document in the post but you can also view the terms and conditions online. Fortunately, the policy is worded in a fairly "plain English" format and there are no nasty hidden clauses. Provided that you are fully paid up on the policy you do not need to provide any documentation when making a claim - everything is system-based.
I can - and do - positively recommend Lifeline insurance. The cover is extensive and well-priced. The policy is easy to set up and supported by a massive network of retail outlets. Furthermore, the claims process is simple and genuinely convenient, such that you are without a phone for the absolute minimum period of time.