/ Money, Motoring

Are you a sitting duck for insurers?


Renewing your car insurance? You’ll get there in the end, but call centre staff might lead you down a long and winding road first.

Think of a number. Double it and add four. Now say: ‘Hmm. Let me see what I can do.’ Congratulations! You are qualified to work in an insurance call centre.

Why is it so hard to renew car insurance?

I write this fresh from a conversation with my car insurer, in which my need to renew the policy and apply it to a new car led me down a tortuous path through the company’s inner workings and inexplicable rules. Random fees wafted in and out of the conversation. And every so often, someone would interject: ‘Can I interest you in multi-car?’

Here’s how it happened. My wife bought a new car, so I called our insurer, Admiral, armed with quotes from Sheilas’ Wheels and Esure (both £187), Diamond (£219), and Elephant (£221). Admiral quoted more than £260. Perhaps they thought I was a sitting duck?

The call handler then said: ‘If you got [a quote from] Diamond or Elephant, they are the same as us, so we can match that quote.’ If I hadn’t mentioned the other quotes, I’m sure I would have ended up paying over the odds.

Random rules and fickle fees

Having navigated the first pitfall, I then proceeded to tackle the issue of the month still to run on my wife’s previous car, a Mini. A new policy would mean forfeiting the no-claims bonus attached to the old one. Cancelling the Mini’s policy would incur a £45 fee (for what?).

Help was at hand. ‘I can get you an introductory five-years’ no-claims discount for one month, then you can transfer the old no-claims discount.’

I cancelled the Mini’s policy, because Admiral randomly waived the £45 anyway. In the end I paid £219, which is a fair price, but it had taken a 45-minute phone call to get there. And having first called Renewals, I then had to call New Business.

I strongly suspect that companies all use the same call centre, that numbers are plucked out of the air and that agents can waive whatever they like.

Why can’t car insurance be fair?

My message to the industry is simple: be fair and transparent with your quotes and your fees. And don’t ever make a ‘courtesy call’ to ask if I want multi-car. I don’t.

Have you ever had an experience similar to mine? What kind of random fees and costs were you subjected to?


Having parted with the premium, I was subjected to the cost and distress of having my valid claim rejected by Which? Recommended John Lewis Home Insurance. This was no administrative oversight, as Which? well knows and Mr Vicary-Smith is personally aware. It is pretty rich for Which? to bemoan the lack of transparency by insurers when it failed to hold John Lewis to account and continues to recommend an insurer that refuses to explain its actions. Information I might add that only came to light after I was forced to use the data protection act to drag the documents out of their clutches. And so I fight on without one iota of assistance from Which? after 37 years as a loyal member and supporter of the charity holding company.

[This comment has been tweaked to align with our community guidelines. Thanks, mods.]


Wow, what does WHICH have to say aboutthis, and no hiding behind ‘ it’s a Legal Issue, we cannot comment.@


The usual position from Which? is silence. For the record, everything I say is supported with direct evidence. I would further add that John Lewis’ Chairman, Charles Mayfield, gave a personal assurance that I would receive comprehensive responses to each point of complaint within 21 days. When that didn’t happen Mr Mayfield refused to respond further. I subsequently made subject access requests. Had Mr Mayfield honoured his promise, information would have come to light far sooner.

I worked with a Which? researcher who saw the evidence and wrote the story for publication. When John Lewis responded with carefully crafted corporate spin that avoided dealing with the core issues, the researcher said he would return to John Lewis with further questions. It was at this point that everything changed suddenly: the researcher left; the story was dropped; and Which? began to behave just like those corporate interests it claims it exists to make us as powerful as.

I have tried very hard to ask Which? to investigate these matters privately without success. As one of the 7,000 Ordinary member ‘shareholders’ in Consumers’ Association Ltd, I wrote to the trustees outlining my concerns about the conduct of Which? Ltd. Regrettably, my letter was not sent to them. Perhaps ironic, given the Which? campaign to improve complaint handling in public services.

[This comment has been tweaked to align with our community guidelines. Thanks, mods.]


Thank you very much for your comments Gary. Your case is something we have worked on at length. Although I understand you’re frustrated with the outcome, for the benefit of the rest of the community and in line with our community guidelines we must keep the discussion on the topic of added fees by car insurers . Thank you


Patrick, I felt my comments aligned with the general theme of insurance practice and transparency raised by the CEO, as this is also at the root of the unresolved issues with John Lewis insurance about which he is aware. That’s how conversations tend to work. Do you also intend to enforce the guidelines in respect of other contributions to this conversation that do not specifically mention motor insurance?

For the record, the nature of your tweaks might suggest to others that I have made statements which are wrong. While they may be inconvenient, they are correct and, as Which? knows, are supported with direct evidence. Your edits therefore amount to censorship.

I note you don’t refute my summary of events; it is the case that once your researcher became suddenly ‘confused’ and left, Which? worked at some length to avoid questioning John Lewis about why my claim was declined. As Which? knows, the FOS considers that is a matter for those involved to explain. I wonder why this particular Which? recommended provider prefers silence and why Which? considers that situation to be acceptable especially when it is clear this is a far more widespread consumer issue.

It’s the concepts of ethics and integrity that are frustrated. If one cannot trust that a Which? recommended provider will behave honestly then what is the point of the icon scheme beyond generating income? And what are the potential consequences for the standing of Which? in failing to act?

All that said, I shall of course respect the rules you choose to enforce in regard to my postings in this thread. Perhaps my concerns can instead be moved to begin a new conversation in relation to the WRP scheme and governance?

[This comment has been tweaked to align with our community guidelines. Thanks, mods.]


Hello Gary, thanks for the reply. I know it can be frustrating, but we have to apply our rules equally to everyone on the community and any edits are very rare and only ever in accordance with our T&Cs https://conversation.which.co.uk/terms-conditions/.

Oh, and I just thought you might like to know that we have a forum for Which? members where they can talk about things like governance. Here’s a link if you’re interested: http://member.community.which.co.uk/. Thanks again.


Thanks Patrick, the stark issue is that a serious consumer matter has been overlooked – one that is not only limited to me – involving an organisation that Which? Ltd endorses and receives income from. It’s also the case that I had responded to a call for help from Which? because Legal Expenses insurance was a matter of concern to members.

My statements are correct and fully supported by direct evidence already known to Which? and John Lewis. As I am concerned that your edits might suggest otherwise, I would like to understand your reasoning. Perhaps we can continue that conversation offline?

I know the management consider Which? to be a £100m business, but ultimately it is a charity with specific objectives along with a duty to maintain public trust and confidence.  It is to Consumers’ Association Ltd that I address my concerns; as a member of the company I understand that its work requires financing, but I would fail in my duty if I did not raise concerns regarding reputational and governance issues about which I have personal experience and hold a stack of direct evidence.  The only reason I do so publically is because it’s been made impossible for me to do so privately. I hope readers will understand that my motives are to protect an organisation I have supported without question for 37 years and to help prevent others from suffering the utter despair of being a sitting duck for the deliberate refusal of a valid insurance claim at the point of greatest need. If sneaky insurance fees are worthy of conversation it is difficult to conceive of any reasons why sneaky insurance claim irregularities should pass without proper scrutiny and comment.

I’ll head over to the member area; anyone who may be interested is most welcome to test the veracity of my assertions and to judge the evidence for themselves.


Peter, Which? recommend NFU Mutual, John Lewis Insurance, LV (presumably also Nationwide), Saga (you and your wife may not yet qualify 🙂 ).

I wonder why you did not take their advice? Maybe you would have had better service. Customer satisfaction for those top four – 78 – 87%. For Admiral – they come 26th out of Which?’s list of 34 insurers with a customer score of only 62% – 5% below the overall average.