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Insuring your car can be an expensive and time-consuming business and making sure you have the right policy for “your” needs is essential. Shopping around can indeed save you money, but what you also need to bear in mind is the quality of service you receive and making sure you know what type of policy you have been quoted for, hence reading the “small print” in the policy is vital.
Previously, I had enjoyed 5 years of trouble free Motor Insurance with a large well-known insurance company (CGNU). Following a “write-off” (it’s not as bad as the word sounds!- it’s done when insurance companies calculate the cost of repairs versus current market value) the insurers paid out near enough market value and my claim was settled. Recently I bought another car and my search was on to find an efficient yet competitive insurance company.
I tried all the big names starting with my previous insurer’s CGNU (now Norwich Union), then AXA, Eagle Star, Zurich, and so on…. the quotes were horrendously high for more of less the same type of insurance policy. I then tried Direct Line.....
Before I outline my experience of Direct Line, I will briefly outline the key factors I was looking for in a Motor Policy.
car: AR 146ti 2.0L Insurance Group: 13-14
KEY FACTORS I was looking for in my Motor Insurance:-
· Fully comprehensive cover · Protected NCD (No Claims Discount) · Legal cover · Low compulsory excess · No voluntary excess · Efficient customer service and organisation · Competitive premium
DIRECT LINE ------------
Direct Line has been selling Motor Insurance policies since 1985 over the phone. At the time they claimed they would revolutionise the way we buy Motor Insurance by cutting out the middleman and passing on the savings to the customer. By 1994 Direct Line had sold a staggering 2 million Motor Insurance policies. So you can see how popular the service is mainly down to the competitive premiums offered.
These days you can obtain a motor insurance quote from Direct Line via the phone or online via their website (there is no discount for online quotes). I decided to get a quote via the phone so I could get any queries resolved by a human and be sure of what I was getting quoted for. Now unlike all the other big names in Insurance who have freephone (0800) numbers to allow customers to obtain quotes Direct line use a local rate (0845) number.
NOTE: Direct Line do not send out quotes, only after you take up the Policy (all these measures i.e. not using 0800 numbers and not wasting money sending out quotes also helps keep their premiums down).
The QUOTE ---------
I obtained a reasonable quote in region of £400 for fully comprehensive cover, protected NCD, including £50,000 legal cover, £5000 personal accident cover, and £1000 worth of cover for audio equipment with £150 compulsory excess and £50 excess for windscreen damage. The quote was much cheaper than the other quotes I had from the leading names in Insurance. After a day I decided to go ahead and accept the Policy.
Sales Staff & Customer Service ------------------------------
Now this is where Direct Line performed poorly..be prepared to read a rant!
Before and during accepting the Policy I clearly stressed that the Motor Insurance was required for a new car I was about to pick up very soon which had no tax on it and was located 100 miles away and that I wanted “only” the Motor Insurance Certificate to be posted to the dealership and not my personal policy. The dealer was to buy the tax disc on behalf ready for when I collect the vehicle on a Sunday. The staff carefully noted down both addresses of home and dealership. I was “assured” that ONLY my Motor Certificate would be sent to the Dealership and the Policy would be posted to my home address. I was very concerned about having my personal details posted to dealerships and hence had enquired extensively beforehand to find out if Direct Line can do this. I was assured they do this all the time as hundreds of people are buying new cars and obviously don’t want their policies to be posted out anywhere other than their home address.
After 3 days of receiving no mail I telephoned Direct Line only to find that the entire Policy details that even I had not seen had been sent to the dealer. I had phoned various call centre of Direct Line and each time I was told a different story..some staff said “they cannot post documents out separately” some said “oh yes, we can we just have to make a note in the comments section of where to send what..” I asked once more if they could please forward me a copy of the Policy to my home address. I was informed by a more senior staff member that they had infact taken on lots of new staff and apologised for the mistake and informed me they would send a copy of my Policy to my home address. Then 2 days later on Saturday arrives an envelope from Direct Line..and guess what..? No Policy they sent me a copy of the Motor Certificate only! So I still could not see what it was I had paid for! As time was running out for me (I was picking the car up in 24 hours) I decided I would just have to read the Policy after I collected the car from the dealership.
No doubt since I have written a letter of complaint to Customer Services and cancelled my insurance with Direct Line due to the numerous mistakes they continued to make not just once but twice and other mistakes with spelling of names, titles etc. NOTE: You are entitled to cancel any Insurance Policy within 14 days (known as the “cooling-off” period)
Within a week I received a letter confirming my cancellation. However, I did not receive any reply from Customer services for 3 weeks regarding my complaint or even an acknowledgement of receiving my letter, so I decided to start the phone calls all over again. Nobody could actually tell me what was going on and finally someone traced the person dealing with the complaint.
I managed to speak with customer services/administration at great length regarding the problems and constant errors made on handling my Policy. They were very sympathetic and fully acknowledged it was their fault and are seriously looking into ways to improve their customer service. They listened attentively and accepted it was their fault and said they are looking at ways of improving customer service and efficiency and obviously with every complaint they will learn from it. Due to the enormous amount of time 4 weeks+ I had spent phoning the company and the numerous blunders they have made (not to mention the damage done to the Sale of the car and what I was being offered at the Dealer all changed..!) they offered me a small amount to cover the expense of my phone calls and are writing an apology letter.
Suggestions for Improvement ---------------------------
1) Invest time and money in training new staff in understanding how Motor Insurance works and being able to deliver what they promise!
2) Re-train all existing staff about advances in automated systems technology i.e Insurance computer software
3) Make sure staff that are selling Motor Insurance do know what the company can and cannot do e.g. Temporary cover notes,
4) Some basic knowledge of the type of cover offered in Policy so potential customer will know what they are accepting eg. Are lost keys covered? Is personal theft covered? Is excess still £150 on personal items too?? (as Direct Line do not send out Policy details i.e small print until you have taken out the Policy)
5) Should at least aim to acknowledge letters of complaint within 5 days and reply later. (In my case no acknowledgement was sent after 3 weeks until I resorted to calling them!)
Overall, although the quote may be competitive, I think currently Direct Line has ventured into too many businesses i.e although they started with motor insurance they now sell Mortgages, pensions, loans etc and need to concentrate on providing an efficient service in what made it so famous to start with: Motor Insurance.
In view of my experiences normally I would not be recommending Direct Line, but to be fair to them as finally they did listen and are training and learning from customer’s notes I am recommending them but at present cannot award more than 1 star! You may receive an efficient service, so by all means feel free to test them out. I may have been unfortunate in all this but this is just another consumer experience that I have lost out badly and the damage has been done and they have lost a valuable customer, maybe in the future I may re-consider!
Direct Line Insurance plc 3 Edridge Road, Croydon, Surrey CR9 1AG Phone: 020 8686 3313; Fax: 020 8686 9536
my insurance premiums £3000.58 but the money aint the problem directjoke soryy i mean directline is really trashy i found them to be slow but there premium is great cuz im young and inexperienced not a convict. however directline better get there act together otherwise they can say bye bye to my custom.
tonya121 24.11.2003 21:56
I would not recommend this company either as I have been the victim of a couple of 'rear end shunts' and have not found them to be particularly efficient in dealing with the claim, i.e. days pass and then you have to phone them to find out what is happening. Also the accident claims line only operates during office hours!!
carolshack 29.06.2001 14:09
I can well understand your frustration and I must admit that I tend to agree with you; I think they've now got their fingers in too many pies!! However, I might add that I've been a Direct Line Motor Insurance customer for 5 years and I have not had the slightest bit of bother with them. In fact, when we needed to make a claim when it wasn't our fault, they were absolutely excellent & provided a service, second-to-none!! Avoid their credit cards, though!!