/ Money

Have you been cold called about ‘home appliance insurance’?

Ever received unexpected calls telling you that cover for your washing machine, oven, dishwasher or other home appliance cover is due for renewal?

We’re looking to hear from anyone who’s been cold called and offered ‘home appliance insurance’.

Maybe you’ve given away your payment details over the phone, thinking the caller was from your existing insurance company, but later found out it was someone else?

Unfortunately this is a scam that seems to be plaguing lots of you at the moment, and is particularly targeting the elderly.

While there are legitimate insurers who will cover your household appliances if they breakdown, we’ve been investigating reports that some are fraudulently taking people’s money.

Our Scam Watch reporter Faye Lipson also looked into these calls a couple of years ago, but our inbox has recently received a huge surge in reports.

Misleading and aggressive sales tactics

We’ve been told about various ways these companies are pressuring and misleading people into handing over their bank details.

Most commonly, they’ll pretend you already have a policy with them and offer to renew it for a cheaper price. Some people who do have appliance warranties are often caught out by this.

They’ll then sign you up for pricey monthly direct debits for services that probably don’t even exist.

Others just go straight in for the hard sell, often calling dozens of times a day, offering increasingly ‘better’ deals.

Most people probably don’t even need appliance breakdown cover, as many common appliance issues are covered by home contents insurance.

Shockingly, some callers even claim you owe hundreds of pounds for a policy you apparently signed up for years ago, but never paid for.

And they’ve been known to call back several times a day, threatening legal action and visits from debt collectors if you refuse to pay up.

But the threats are hollow. These companies have absolutely no right to take money from you. The calls are best ignored and reported.

Tell us your story

We want more to be done to stop these scammers being able to freely contact vulnerable people.

What to do if you’re worried you’ve given your bank details to a scammer

We’re looking to gather as many stories together as possible from people who’ve been affected to support this.

Are you regularly pestered by cold callers from these companies? Have you been persuaded to hand over your payment details? Did you get your money back?

It would be really useful to hear about your experiences for our research – just tell us what happened to you in the comments section below.

If you’d rather contact us anonymously, you can can also get in touch at scamwatch@which.co.uk.

Comments
Betty Carter says:
25 June 2020

Yep – they just called me. Lady knew my name and address. Said she was from APC and was calling about cover on my washing machine. Put the phone down when I started asking her about what model my machine was…

Tina Latham says:
25 June 2020

Yes that has just happened to me. They called me from this number 01273 033265 obviously from a very busy call centre. They asked for Mrs Latham [my mum] who would be 83 now if she was alive. So they were obviously expecting a little old lady to answer the phone instead of a brisk young one that wasn’t going to take any of their nonsense. I’ve never taken out any insurance out on any of my washing machines as they are always a con anyway. I made it quite clear that I wasn’t going to be coerced any further into the debate as to whether I had a washing machine insured or otherwise and politely ended the conversation.

J Wilson says:
29 June 2020

Just been called this morning. Woman claiming to be from Domestic & General insurance and calling about resetting my washing machine cover. I hung up pretty quickly. I do have a washing machine that is not so old so it had me thinking for a moment, but we never took out any extended cover of that kind.

I posted about my experience where I received a call from D&G after registering an appliance: https://conversation.which.co.uk/money/home-appliance-insurance-cold-call-scams/#comment-1596781

I still don’t know if it is legal for a company to pass my contact details on to D&G. Perhaps I should contact Which? and ask a direct question.

Why not write to the Information Commissioner’s Office and put the question to them?

I could do that, but it would be good to have a few answers to simple questions that many of us ask on Convo. The answers might help us help others and might be added to all the information that Which? provides via their website.

Yes, I understand that but you are possibly more likely to get reliable answers from the ICO rather than speculative ones from Which?. Could be quicker too, and then you could share them here.

I thought you were keen on Which? making more of an input here, John. Yes I can report back as I have done a few times over the years.

It is a question worth airing in Convo – and in the magazine – particularly if, in the absence of a proper non-commercial registration system, people are put off in case they get unwanted messages and calls. We do want to see all relevant appliances registered; it is in the interests not only of the owner but of their neighbours, who might also suffer if there were a serious recall fault that could cause a fire, for example.

I applaud the industry for providing a registration system where nothing else exists, such as AMDEA: “The AMDEA Register my appliance web portal offers owners a simple way to register all of the appliances they have acquired within the last twelve years. The portal provides access to the product registration pages of over 60 leading brands of domestic appliances, including most of the UK’s top selling brands of major white goods.“. I have used it and have never had unwanted approaches. I do not know whether it does deter many people or whether, having bought the product, they just don’t bother to register it. A Connect survey might be useful.

Nowadays ‘Register my Appliance’ provides links to the manufacturer’s websites, so I’m not sure of the benefit. At one time ‘Register my Appliance’ used a costly phone number (which can still be seen on many appliance stickers) so ringing the manufacturer could be a better option. I hope the expensive number has been dropped.

When I bought my freezer it came with a sticker and a leaflet urging me to register with the manufacturer and provided an 0800 number, which is free.

Wavechange – I am getting frustrated with the lack of action by Which? on so many things we raise here. It would be great if there were more input, but I think the signs are obvious that there just is not the capacity, or the inclination at times, so for a straight answer to a direct legal question – whether it is legal for a manufacturer to pass on a purchaser’s details to a product maintenance insurance company – I thought the ICO route would be better. It will probably depend on what it says on the guarantee/registration document that came with the product. It could be something like “In returning this form [or giving us your contact details] you allow us to share information with other companies or organisations that offer customer protection services”. Whether that would be satisfactory in terms of the GDPR is the interesting question because I think there should be an opt out option.

Are businesses finding ways to bypass or ignore GDPR?

I am getting slightly fed up with being repeatedly getting the screen that says something like:
We value your privacy
We and our partners use technologies, such as cookies, and process personal data, such as IP addresses and cookie identifiers, to personalise ads and content based on your interests, measure the performance of ads and content, and derive insights about the audiences who saw ads and content. Click below to consent to the use of this technology and the processing of your personal data for these purposes. You can change your mind and change your consent choices at any time by returning to this site.

You are then presented with a choice of MORE OPTIONS or I ACCEPT

You then see this screen:
.

Everything is toggled to off so you might SAVE & EXIT

. . . . . . . but is it ?????????

The ACCEPT ALL button is highlighted and nothing happens if you click REJECT ALL.

If you click ACCEPT ALL all the Off buttons toggle to On.

If you then click REJECT ALL all the On buttons toggle to Off..

But the ACCEPT ALL button stays highlighted.

If you then SAVE & EXIT are all those Offs being toggled to Ons?

For GDPR to work for us, every operating system needed to have a program/app so we could have real control.

This is Privacy Badger for this Which? page.
.

On many sites, if you toggle the permissions to 🚫 you are prevented from using that page until you toggle them to ✅. Kaspersky has only detected 2 attempts to collect data on this page whereas the front page of the convos it has detected 27 attempts and Privacy Badger none, go figure:
.

Are these more clues that We Value Your Privacy is not worth the paper (in this instance the screen) it is printed on?

Data is being collected from us everywhere. Without logging into a site, I have put something into a shopping basket then left the page. How does that website know my email address to then send an email to tell me I didn’t complete my purchase? I clear out temporary files, cookies, etc. many times a day depending on where I have been and where I am going but these businesses hide them where they can’t be found and clearing out doesn’t remove them all. For all we know, home insurance businesses could be tracking our internet purchasing and know when we have bought a brand new washing machine.

I don’t think GDPR gives us much control at all over our personal data.

Respectable UK corporations take GDPR quite seriously and have trained staff accordingly. But there is a rather wooly definition of personal data for GDPR, see:-https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/guide-to-data-protection/guide-to-the-general-data-protection-regulation-gdpr/key-definitions/what-is-personal-data/

Hence, I think it is possible for folk in occupations like advertising to work around the terms and conditions of that definition.

But where we have consented to letting websites take our personal data, GDPR requires them to treat us as data subjects. In turn, this gives the right to file data subject access requests (see:-https://www.itgovernance.co.uk/blog/what-are-the-data-subject-rights-under-the-gdpr) and those must be responded to within one month.

I wonder what would happen, if we were all to act as good citizens and regularly exercise our given rights under this Act, e.g. by regularly submitting data access requests to companies that we deal with.

There are some sites where trying to reject non-essential items (“preferences”) seems so convoluted that I give up and leave. To simply accept essential cookies (?) and then reject all (the others) with one click seems OK.

John – In answer to your post above.

You might well be right about contacting ICO but I have not found ICO helpful in the past.

It would be helpful if we were given some guidance about what we might expect from Convo. Early in the lockdown when Which? staff had been sent home I remember George responding to one of my questions, saying that it was difficult to provide responses and I have tried to be patient. I do understand that there is likely to be a resourcing issue, but you are occasionally critical about Which? not answering questions and leaving it up to contributors. Perhaps the best solution is to let the Convo community have first go and then for Which? to deal with the more challenging questions. I’m impressed by the number of posts by members of the Legal team in certain Convos. I suspect it’s too much to expect them to wade through pages of our daily ruminations about anything and everything.

Regarding my freezer guarantee registration, I did this online as recommended and took care to make it clear that I wanted no marketing and did not want to take up the offer of an extended warranty. From memory I had to do this more than once. I believe that the default should always be to opt-in if you consent to have your details passed on to another organisation.

Em says:
30 June 2020

@alfa – Businesses don’t need to find ways to bypass GDPR, because the ICO is too busy dealing with high-profile data breaches, TalkTalk, BA and now EasyJet all spring to mind.

If I just happen to be processing your data without causing you serious harm, what does it matter?

Returning to Beko passing on my information to D&G, I called ICO and they suggested that I contacted Beko and asked why they had done this. I had been planning to do this but wanted to check the legality first. ICO said there must be a legal basis for processing my data and that helped me locate this information on their website: https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/guide-to-data-protection/guide-to-the-general-data-protection-regulation-gdpr/lawful-basis-for-processing/

I did contact Beko and received this reply:

Dear **********

Thank you for your email dated 30/06/2020 in reference to your Beko product.
I am sorry for the delay in our response to your email.

Please check the registrations website for terms and conditions regarding registration. You will see that at the bottom of the page there information the explains that the service is provided by Domestic and General and clicking on the terms and condition it clearly states in the first paragraph “This Website is provided on behalf of Beko plc by Domestic & General Services Limited (“DGS”). By accessing or using this Website, you agree to the following terms and conditions. If you do not accept these terms and conditions of use and do not intend to be bound by them you must not use this Website and you should exit immediately.”
Kind Regards,
******
Beko Customer Services

I replied, pointing out that there should be a way of registering a product so that owners can be informed promptly about recalls without their contact details being shared. Beko have not yet replied.

Providing these leads is an additional income stream for Beko [and other companies]; they’re not going to give it up without it being outlawed. Just another example of the parasitic tendencies of some types of commerce.

If Beko do not respond soon I will be in touch with ICO again, John. I believe that GDPR helped to get rid of some of my junk email. I’ve boycotted some companies that I’ve never used.

One reason that I’m reluctant to register products is past experience of marketing that has almost certainly resulted from registration – either directly or via ‘Register My Appliance’. Of course, not all companies behave in this way, but if we are to have comprehensive product registration to facilitate notification of recalls I want to see this done independently, either by the Office of Public Safety and Standards or their agents.

At present the balance might be between ignoring marketing information but protecting yourself and your neighbours from the possibility of a hazard should an appliance be recalled. We must, in the meantime, be able to register appliances.

Perhaps Which? would look at this?

Compulsory contact details for certain products is, as far as I can see, the only way to ensure as full a recall as possible. It should be independently operated. The OPSS seems pretty useless so far and any scheme would almost certainly be farmed out to one of the usual iffy companies like Serco or Crapita. Personally I’d like to see it come under Trading Standards but only if they are properly resourced. We need to take consumer safety seriously,

Another question of Which? What do they think and are they doing anything about it?

All our appliances have been registered on first purchase but we have moved twice in the case of some of them and once for others. I have not updated the registrations and I am sure I am not alone in that. I am fairly sure that my e-mail address was given as part of the registration process which should help in the event of a recall. I cannot tell from the marketing information I receive very occasionally whether or not it originates from appliance registration. Even if it did, I don’t see as it as an intolerable nuisance.

Any registration at the point of purchase should always include the owner’s e-mail address. It would assist the process if the manufacturers would also print the appliance ref. nos. and codes on an A5 card that we could keep in a handy place; I know I could do that myself but I always forget and the thing has been plumbed in and pushed back to the wall before I fill in the registration document [or an delivery driver/installer does it without thinking]. Of course, it would be useful if the retailer did the registration as part of the sale function – but then they would not be able to capture all that other lifestyle information they want [I think many people lie anyway].

I am proposing that it should be the retailer who takes and registers basic contact information as a compulsory part of the sales process.

Malcolm – Good. I think that is potentially the most reliable method. Since so many appliances are bought on-line nowadays it should not be a chore for the retailer to register them as the customer has to ensure their billing address, delivery address [if different], and e-mail address are all recorded before the purchase can be completed. The only element not captured with an in-store purchase of a major appliance is the e-mail address.

A simple process might need to be introduced for in-store purchases of small carry-out appliances [e.g. toasters, kettles, microwaves, electric blankets, &c]; no doubt an official app could be developed to make it easy for the retailer to get the data without having to do it manually.

I would prefer to see the registration system managed by an independent organisation that is virtually leak-proof [if that is possible]. I once thought the TV Licensing body – which has the largest household database – would be a good place to put it but security concerns have arisen there recently in consequence of all the phishing scams being perpetrated.

Some years ago I suggested that product registration by or on behalf of OPSS should be accompanied by personal web pages that (by logging in) owners can check that products have been registered correctly and edited to delete products that have been sold or otherwise disposed of. That could be put in place now for those who voluntarily register their products. The record of make/model/serial number would also be useful in the event of an insurance claim, as a reminder or even evidence of ownership.

I can envisage a couple of problems:

1. Can we rely on online retailers registering products they sell? As we know, marketplace traders do not always pay attention to the regulations that require compliance with safety standards.

2. To compulsorily register purchases will require new legislation, which could take some time. I hope that most people will appreciate the benefits but fear that some may see it as an infringement of privacy. That is why I’m keen on starting with a voluntary system as soon as possible and working on making it mandatory.

It would be helpful if all product details (make/model/serial number) were in a standard place in products, which would help retailers using barcode scanners and owners checking that product details are in the database. A camera phone can scan barcodes.

John wrote: “All our appliances have been registered on first purchase but we have moved twice in the case of some of them and once for others. I have not updated the registrations and I am sure I am not alone in that.”

This is one reason we need access to our page of registrations on the database. A single update could then associate all our products with our new address, phone number and anything else that has changed.

Capita Business Services Ltd are responsible for the administration and enforcement of the tv licence fee.

Tony says:
29 June 2020

Just had a call from 02083694582. Same as below, didn’t know make, model or retailer. Told them so* off. The salesman came over as being very nice but obviously a scam.

Em says:
30 June 2020

It is pretty clear that even some reputable organisations, like Domestic & General, don’t understand GDPR. Go to their website and you are presented with this wording as an overlay and a close X:

We have placed cookies on your computer to make this website better for your use. If you carry on browsing, we’ll assume you are happy with this. You can find out more details, including how to change your settings at any time.

“… we’ll assume …” lets the cat out of the bag as to D&G’s take on GDPR, which requires:

“Consent [to processing personal data] should be given by a clear affirmative act… such as by a written statement, including by electronic means, or an oral statement. This could include ticking a box when visiting an internet website, choosing technical settings for information society services or another statement or conduct which clearly indicates in this context the data subject’s acceptance of the proposed processing of his or her personal data. Silence, pre-ticked boxes or inactivity should not therefore constitute consent.”

Thanks Em. This might feature in my correspondence with D&G. 🙂

Christopher Bailey says:
30 June 2020

Just been called from a lady selling white goods insurance for a Hotpoint washing machine that I don’t have! Again, like the caller below, its from a Brighton telephone number. In this case 01273 655025. Claimed to be Premium or Prestige Warranty Services and wouldn’t say where she got my number (TPS registered)

Richard Drew says:
1 July 2020

Just had a call from a firm called PPE saying our non existent insurance on our washing machine has expired. When my wife said that I would phone back he rang off. It was a scam call and he will regret it should he ring back. This was clearly a scam. Just ask lots of questions as to what was the previous insurance, how much, where purchased, etc. They will answer if for real but will ring off.

Maria Hernandez says:
3 July 2020

Just had a phone call from a very busy call centre claiming to be L&G saying that my washing machine warranty had expired on 29yh June and offering me a monthly payment of £10 or one off payment of £99 and they would replace my broken washing machine. When I said that I didnt have a broken washing machine he then said ‘no madam, a dishwasher ‘. As it happen my dishwasher just broke down 7 days ago and I am looking to replace it so I asked for the company name and telephone number which he paid was “smart appliance care” his name was Aaron and tel num 0113487205. After researching those details no such a company exists and came across this article so obviously a scam. I can see how people would be easily tricked onto taking a monthly direct debit and handling their card or bank details.

Maria – It’s a dirty trick pretending to be calling on behalf of L&G. Legal & General is a long-standing and well-respected insurance company specialising in pensions, investments and life assurance. It no longer provides general insurance. Have you reported this to Action Fraud?

Perhaps Maria meant Domestic & General, which offers insurance covers on appliances. If not, maybe they are using Legal & General because it is a name that people will have heard of.

Perhaps we should revisit the Fire, Auto, and Marine Insurance Company [proprietor: Emil Savundra]?

Carol Birkenhead says:
7 July 2020

Phoned from 01053921911 by a lady with an indian accent who said ‘I’m calling from legal and general to tell you that your washing machine warranty has expired and do you want to renew it’
I asked her what sort of washing machine do we have and she could not answer but just quoted my postcode calling me Maam. I have now blocked the number on 1572.

Dawn Ford says:
9 July 2020

Called yesterday by someone saying he was from Domestic and General and my washing machine cover was now due. If I paid in one lump sum for the year there and then I would get a free 6 months cover. He was indian sounding, talked very fast and was a but too keen to get me to ‘renew’ immediately. Luckily it rang alarm bells and I declined and put the phone down. So glad because when I checked my insurance with D&G is not due until October but I could very easily have been caught out.

Hannah Reddy says:
14 July 2020

Has anyone else experienced this problem but with TVs? I’ve had a call from a company claiming we took out insurance for our TV a couple of years ago. They claimed that they were offering to halve the premium for the remaining 3 years of the policy. We have no recollection of this and the information they’ve provided doesn’t stack up. I’ve just googled Cover Direct and they do exist however they appear to only do life insurance.

Hi Hannah, this sounds like a refund scam to me.