Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Car Insurance Scam: Scammed By The Insurers 3

This is a continuation of my previous post.

I went on to their Facebook page and decided to write about my experience as a way of letting others know about it, and thus help them if they were planning on getting insurance with GoSkippy. However a short while later I received a private message on Facebook asking for the policy number and further details. I did as asked for, and I was told that they said they would consider giving me an extension to provide the required documentation.

No thanks! No other insurance company needs scanned driving licenses and counterparts, and they also know how to use email. Furthermore, this hidden cancellation fee was outrageous, I just wanted to end the policy and move on. I conveyed this to the person messaging me and he said he would raise the issue with the complaints department.

So come Monday morning, I received another email, from the complaints department, who said that the £75 fee was final, and I was expected to pay for the 6 weeks of coverage (another £49), unless I could resend the documentation within 3 weeks - so that they could keep me as a customer. They assumed that I was grumbling about them not receiving the relevant documentation, however what they didn't realise, was that I was tired of their business practice, my real concern was the excessive fee and no matter what they did, I was leaving them. That really wasn't on, I was being charged a fee that I was not made aware initially. I was not fully convinced that cancelling a financial contract required £75 worth of man hours.

Clutching at straws, I fired off an email, mumbling about their hidden fee and I would be in touch with Southern Rock (the underwriter) and other financial regulatory agencies (in the UK, this means the 'financial ombudsman'). A day later I was presented with another email, but this was in a different tone.

"Firstly we aim to provide excellent customer service at all times, and I am sorry that you do not feel
 we have done so in this instance. , I am concerned to hear of the issues and challenges that you have faced with your Go Skippy insurance policy. I would like to reassure you that this is not the experience I wish a valued customer to receive.
However I do note that you have expressed your dissatisfaction providing this information and therefore, as a gesture of goodwill, upon cancellation of your policy, I will waive the cancellation fee of £75.00. 
Finally, and once again, please accept my sincere apologies for any inconvenience this matter may have caused you."

Now, this I liked. I'm not quite sure what happened, but I assume the mention of "financial regulatory agencies" may have moved a few cogs somewhere.

A small fee waived, but a large victory, over a large, greedy, over-zealous insurance company.

I managed to set up insurance with Churchill again, but as a new customer, my father was only charged £470, which was reasonable, and a lot less than their previous renewal price. So another small victory.

Beware: insurance companies registered abroad
Having read some comments on forums, it appears that GoSkippy have consistently poor customer experience, and use Southern Rock as their insurer, who are actually registered in Gibralter and not in the UK. Not sure how easy it is to deal with them, but I am glad I never had to find out.

Car Insurance Scam: Scammed By The Insurers 2

This is a continuation of my previous post.

After the phone call, I read all of the emails and letters they had sent me (luckily I do keep these important letters organised in a metal filing box). Now this left me confused, I could not find any letter or email that specified this £75 fee. In particular, their initial email stated:

"It is also important that you read the full Policy Booklet, Your Statement of Information, Your Motor Policy Schedule and Your Certificate of Motor Insurance, which together, form the basis of the insurance cover you have purchased to ensure that it meets your demands and needs and you are familiar with all aspects of cover given to you and in what circumstances this may be excluded or limited. Policy Key Facts and Full Policy Wordings can be viewed or downloaded by clicking on 'Policy Wordings' from the GoSkippy website"

So, I read the "policy booklet", "statement of information", "motor policy schedule", "certificate of motor insurance" and finally on their website their "Policy Wordings" (they have several PDF files, I read the Southern Rock one, as that was the underwriter for this policy). This is what it said about cancellation:

"Where We do not receive evidence of Your no claim discount, licences for all drivers named on Your Policy or any other valid requests to support the accuracy of information You gave Us and on which Your insurance Terms are based upon, within 21 days from the start date of the Policy. If We have not received such evidence by the end of the 21 day period, We may issue a cancellation letter and We will cancel Your Policy if We do not receive evidence by the end of the seven day cancellation notice period"

So I promptly called back, and asked where this £75 fee was stated. The same woman proceeded to open her web browser and asked me to follow her instructions so I could see what part of the website it was shown in. At the bottom of the homepage, there was a link for their "Terms of Business". The woman was adamant, that was standard fee, and that I agreed to their terms of business when I took the policy out. I could see that this conversation was not going to progress any further and she was not going to back down or offer any reduction to this stupidly high fee, and thus I ended the call politely.

Find out how I recouped a small win, in the next post.

Car Insurance Scam: Scammed By The Insurers

car insurance
Better safe, than sorry
Car insurance, the bane of motorists lives, the world over (or at least in the UK). We hate it, but we need it. And given the abundance of insurance companies (at least several hundred by my reckoning, having compared most of them on comparison sites), we would have thought that with rife competition, prices would be low and added extras would be plentiful. Alas, the insurance market place is wrought with many hidden pitfalls including poisonous small-print, booby-trapped cancellation fees, and spear-headed administrative fees.

My father is in his 50's and his insurance renewal was due in January. And like he has done every year for the last 11 years, he was going to let the insurance auto-renew and not have to worry about a thing. This year he was quoted £585, to auto renew with Churchill. Unfortunately for him, his meddling son, had other plans. I compared the prices of insurance for him as a new customer, online, with various comparison sites (including GoCompare, Money Supermarket and

go skippy scam
My advice, skip insuring with GoSkippy
Voila, £387 was the cheapest, with a company called GoSkippy. I rang the company and asked to pay for the insurance and to ensure the new policy was activated the day after his previous insurance cover ended. A job well done, £200 extra to spend, and a pat on the back for myself.

I should have researched the company beforehand, that was my first mistake. They asked for scanned copies of the no claims bonus (8 years, no less), and a copy of the front and back of his license photocard, and the counterpart.

Having sent these in via email, the company claimed not to have received them, and thus I re sent them. And had the same response. A week later (5 weeks into the insurance policy), we recieved a letter, stating that the insurance was to be cancelled within a week as they have not recieved the relevant documentation and that they would be charging us for the 6 weeks of cover and a £75 administration fee!

So I called them and asked what this administrative fee included. The lovely woman on the phone explained how that is the standard fee and it included costs of cancelling the financial contract with the underwriter. I then asked, why this was not specified when I took out the policy. She said that it was. This was my second mistake, I did not record any of the calls I had made to the company.

Find out what happens in the next post.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Money Saving Apps and Sites: HUKD edition

Welcome to the "Money Saving Apps and Sites" feature on the site. The idea here is to list and discuss mobile apps, blogs and websites that are designed to help us save or earn money in our day to day life.

Money Saving Apps and Sites: HUKD edition

This post will focus on the amazing Hot UK Deals website.

This is a site that lets users post 'deals' and bargains, they find across any number of categories (mobiles, restaurants, kids, fashion, home, entertainment and so on). And other users get to see these deals, and vote on them (hot or cold) - depending on how good the deal is compared to the market value of the item.

The site also has a freebies and vouchers section that I frequent. A quick flick through the site, shows up some surprisingly good finds, and the comments can be quite insightful when purchasing an unfamiliar item. There are occasional trolls, but for the most part, you can learn of alternatives and how other people find the same item cheaper or even find amusing ways to use them. I have learnt a lot about frugality and money saving and tonnes of consumer advice from the vast number of commenters on the site. The search feature is great when you are looking for a specific item, for say a birthday or anniversary.

The downsides that I have found, is that it is possible to get addicted to the site and paying more than your budget allows for items that seem like a bargain. But if your disciplined and keep an eye out for things like fuel deals, money off vouchers and buy things that you will need (like washing powder or light bulbs), your guaranteed to save money.

Best of all, the site is view able on your computer or tablet/phone (there is a mobile app available too). This makes the site a brilliant way to while away a bit of time (when you've nothing better to do), and save a few quid on your essentials (or that unnecessary but cheap second laptop...).

Banking for profit!

I recently switched my current account, and I got paid to do it. Whats more, I get paid every month for my custom. That is the way to bank your way to a smarter wallet.

Banks in the UK all recently agreed on an joint effort to a use whats known as the '7-day switch guarantee'. What this means for consumers is, if you are not satisfied with your bank, you can switch, and both the new bank and old bank will complete the switch (including all direct debits, bills, payments, overdrafts will move over) within 7 days. Great news.

But given the lazy nature of human beings, who wants to switch from our local bank? That is what the banks are asking, and they are all vying to have you as a customer. Therefor they are all offering different incentives to have your custom.

This is where you and I can cash in. It pays to shop around, depending on what is on offer and what facilities are important to you. Some of the better ones include:

Santander 123 Current Account
Pros: Cons:
  • £100 paid for switching
  • up to 3% interest for all savings up to £20000 
  • up to 3% cash back on direct debits
  • £2 monthly fee 
  • £500 minimum monthly income
  •  have a minimum of 2 direct debits set up
  •  Arranged overdraft cost: £1 per day
  •  Unarranged overdraft fees: £5 per day
Co-operative Current Account
Pros: Cons:
  • £100 paid for switching 
  • £25 paid to charity for switching
  • £200 fee free overdraft limit
  • 0% interest on balance
  • £800 income per month
  •  Unarranged overdraft fees: £20 per month
Halifax Reward Current Account
Pros: Cons:
  • £100 paid for switching 
  • £5 reward per month for staying in credit
  • 0% interest on balance
  • £750 income per month
  •  have a minimum of 2 direct debits set up
  •  Arranged overdraft cost: £1 per day
  •  Unarranged overdraft fees: £5 per day
First Direct Current Account
Pros: Cons:
  • £100 paid for switching
  • 0% interest for overdraft up to £250
  • 6% interest on linked savings account
  • £100 further paid, if unsatisfied after 6 months and decide to leave
  • 0% interest on balance
  • £1000 minimum monthly income
  • Arranged overdraft fee: 15.9% (over £250)
  • Unarranged overdraft fees: £5 per day
These are the accounts that I considered to be the cream of the crop for the current selection of accounts that are on offer, mainly because of their benefits (instant £100, for starters) and that they all offer really good customer service. The one that is best suited for you will depend based on what you are looking for from your account.

The monthly income requirement on these accounts isn't generally a problem, if you play your cards right and fund the 'same' money in and out of the account per month ;)

Of all of these, I found the Co-operative Current Account, to be the most boring, save for its £200 fee free overdraft. Which may appeal to some, and its £800 requisite income per month, is a little lower than some of the other current accounts (Nationwide and First Direct) asking for up to £1000 a month.

It is an interesting idea to switch to First Direct, and switch away from them after 6 months to earn £200 (£100 for switching to them, £100 for switching away after six months of supposed 'dissatisfaction') from them first. Though I am told it is a really good bank, I was a little afraid I might have been persuaded to continue banking with them instead of moving again.

Santanders 123 Current Account, has an annoying monthly fee of £2 - which amounts to £24 a year. But the cash back offered, generally amounts to huge amounts of money back in your pocket. I have friends who have mortgages with Santander and pay their bills via direct debit and they regularly get £15~20 cash back per month. They offer large amounts of interest on their balances too, beating many saving accounts.

However, as I have no mortgage, and very small direct debits set up for my monthly SIM only deals, this account was not right for me.

In the end I settled with Halifax (surprisingly I wanted to move away from Lloyds, only to settle with another bank in their clutches), but I was tempted by their £5 monthly reward. (Which amounts to £60 per year - so my year one benefits are £160 in total).

In my opinion, Santander and Halifax provide the better selection of whats available, but your mileage may vary. What are you waiting for? Go and get some money back from the banks.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Save 11p per litre of fuel at Sainsburys

Hot off the press!

Save 11p per litre of fuel at Sainsburys.

I have just been been alerted to a promotion been run by Sainsbury. The caveats are that you need to be on their mobile network and you must top up.

You must top up £10 in store, and you will be provided with a coupon that permits 11p off a litre. By any means, I am not insinuating that you will save a large amount of money on this one, but if you already have a Sainsbury Pay As You Go sim card, and will utilise the minutes, then this is quite a bargain.

The calculations are as follows 
(for my average fuel top up):

Diesel costs £1.349 per liter.
50 liters will cost you 1.349 x 50 = £67.45

after your 11p discount:
Diesel now costs £1.239 per liter.
50 liters will now cost you 1.239 x 50 = £61.95

A discount of £5.50 (don't forget that you have just spent £10 on your PAYG sim card)

The discount get bigger if you have a larger fuel tank, (100 litres = £11 discount). Don't forget to take a large fuel can too ;)

But assuming that you already have a Sainsbury PAYG sim card, and you will use the £10 credit (perhaps as an emergency phone), then the savings are well worth it.

The promotion runs between the 10th of February until May 6th. So if you have multiple cars in the household, have large fuel tanks, and you have a credit hungry phone (young teen perhaps?), this might save you a few quid.

Edit: Phone top ups are eligible for double nectar points apparently, so if you save up for those, that is another incentive.

Further edit: I cannot find any viable reason to choose Sainsbury as my network provider, their rates are horrendous, so unless your absolutely sure you will use the minutes/texts/data (50p for 25MBs, pfft!!!), I cannot see any benefits. Or unless you have a large fuel tank, capable of filling up over a 100 liters.

You can view the promotion details on the Sainsbury site.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Musings on Fuel Efficiency 3

Welcome back to our series on cutting our fuel costs. Last time we looked at some ways to find cheaper fuel or to pay less for fuel. This time we will focus on what we can do to our car to ensure it is using fuel as efficiently as possible.

De-clutter the car
To start off with, the biggest fuel efficiency sinker for a car is its weight. The heavier a car is, the more energy it requires to move it. Basic physics, really.

Go check the boot. I have seem family members with toolboxes, excess clothing, tripods and camera gear, pushchairs and baby seats, in their vehicle boots. If you do not need it for your journey, leave it behind. I carry a pocket multi-tool as part of my everyday carry, for emergencies; and in my boot is just a warm waterproof jacket and a bottle of clean water.
While your cleaning your boot, this might be a good time to change your large spare tyre for a space saver tyre. The weight savings will make it worthwhile.

While we are discussing weight, if your petrol station is nearby home or work, and not out of your usual journey routes. There is no need for a full tank of fuel every few weeks. The weight of all that fuel your carrying around for a fortnight is costing you extra fuel. Go for half a tank each time and use that. You never know, next week the prices may drop, and since your car is less heavier in the interim, you will save a few quid (over the course of the next few months). Obviously if you're going on a long journey, make sure you have adequate fuel or plan where the cheapest places are to stop for fuel.

Reduce drag.
The shape of your car determines how much air resistance your car faces, the larger and less slimline your car (that's one of the reasons large off road vehicles have larger engines), the more energy it requires to cut air resistance and get up to speed. The killer items here are roof racks and cycle carrying equipment. Stow them in your shed/garage unless you absolutely need them.

Under or over inflated tyres.
Ensure that your tyres are the recommended type for your vehicle (especially if you have just bought a second hand car) and that they are inflated to the right pressure and tracked correctly. There's a lot to take in there, but your car manufacturer recommends certain pressure/size for your car, so follow those guidelines (the previous owner may have cheaped out during an MOT or service - so it might affect your fuel efficiency); Also check that you have the correct tyres for the season, summer tyres in winter and winter tyres in summer, may be wasting valuable fuel.. Secondly check the amount of air in the tyres, deflated tyres will cause your engine to work harder to maintain the speed shown on your speedometer. Finally ensure that the tyres are tracked correctly. This just means that your tyres need to be the correct angle to the axle/suspension, as recommended by the manufacturer (its not just a straightforward 90 degree angle, unlike toy models). Again, your engine has to work harder to maintain the speed shown on your speedometer, if your car tyres are not aligned properly. Get a good mechanic to check this at your next service.

Ensure that your car is serviced properly and regularly. The air condition/filters and oil inside the car, will ensure a smoother and better ride if they are clean and the correct type for your car. Greasy air filters and incorrect amounts and types of oils inside the engine will make for an unhappy engine and will cause it to be a little bit more thirsty.

This doesn’t have to be expensive. Man up and do it yourself. With the availability of the internet and sites like youtube and howcast, you can find very specific instructions for your make and model on how to get your hands dirty (and save yourself some money). It is pretty basic, like checking your oil levels and locating your air filter, and if done regularly, it will not take too long.

That's it for now. I hope I have saved you a little bit of money. Do you have any further advice for our readers, please let us know in the comments.

This is part of a series on fuel efficiency and money saving on motoring fuel. Keep your eyes peeled for the next part in the series with further tips on getting you saving you money on your fuel expenditure.