A Motor Insurance Rant

Not all insurance companies are bad, but the ones I have dealt with recently represent the industry.

I’ve insured my van with the same insurer (broker and underwriter) for the last four years. No claims, no convictions and not even an enquiry which could be classed as an unclaimed loss, yet the premium went from £580 (approx) in year one, to £660 in YR2; £820 in YR3 and year four made me a £999.00 fool for being a loyal customer. I’ve been struggling with my finances so I decided to try the eis scheme. This year they wanted more or less the same so I had a moan about the whole thing whilst reminding them that the SAME vehicle is now worth considerably less now than when they first insured it.

At first I got the expected, ‘insurance premium tax’ patter. I resisted and was subsequently offered the ‘fraudulent claims’ explanation; the chap – Iain – concurred that us honest types are getting shafted for the pleasure. Furthermore, insurance companies shafting each other when they can made for quite a depressing conversation which ended with me giving my now former insurer the elbow as I head for all that I could find on the internet. I found a few attractive quotes; the best one was less than half of what I was paying (or was invited to pay if I remained a loyal customer).

I opted to go with the cheapest option simply because I was familiar with the underwriter having had direct experience with them dealing with windscreen claims for customers, and also the issuing broker is well known in motoring circles. However, as I navigated my way through the questions I gathered a few of my own along the way:

1. The proposal included a replacement vehicle in the event of being without mine while it was being repaired. But when I got to the checkout stage to pay, a list of bolt-ons appeared on the same page, such as: cover for tools; breakdown recovery; key care; mis-fuel cover and… replacement vehicle cover. I clicked on the ‘more’ link and this additional product offered exactly what the policy included as standard. How many people would have clicked on this and “for just an additional £17.00” added the extra cover which is included in the proposal?

2. Throughout the whole proposal stage, I couldn’t find anything which told me more about the policy itself. In fact, I had to go through quite a bit of jargon to (eventually) find who the underwriter was in this instance. There was, however, no mention of who the approved repairer(s) was/were; no mention of what would happen in the event of a windscreen claim other than the words: you are covered (the point being, if there are restrictions on what parts will be used; who you can – or cannot – use to have them fitted or if there was a capping on the settlement if I basically didn’t adhere to the agreement (which I was struggling to understand).

3. After (reluctantly) accepting the terms I was sent a confirmation of policy inception. However no documents could be sent until a couple of points had been verified. The first was my occupation. I selected ‘windscreen fitter’ from the available categories and stated that I am employed by a company which I am also Director of. 24 hours into this new cover, a conversation with the insurance representative took place so that she could clear up some confusion over this. The other was that she had the vehicle down as a 4Motion. There may be a (very slim) chance that I entered this information incorrectly but I am 99.9% certain I didn’t (it was indexed from the VRN as a Highline T5 so flux knows where they got the 4 Motion bit from). The result of this meant that because of “these ammendments to the policy” there is a supplement to pay. A demand for and additional £46.00 is to be paid in the next SEVEN DAYS if cover is to continue.

4. A question of an old SP30 came up (out of nowhere as I didn’t mention it at any stage; a spent conviction dated 2012) and I said it shouldn’t be considered. She said they will take my word for it. The issue here is, if there is a doubt now, it might be a factor in the event of a claim, so if we are about to enter into an agreement why not put it beyond doubt? Hire companies do it before you rent a car from them (chuck ’em you NI number and they’ll run a check) so why be so flippant about it? Yes, the onus is on me to disclose but I didn’t mention it anywhere at any stage (on the basis that I am not required to after seven years although I’m sure it is ‘spent’ after four/five).

Half of me says I got a good quote to begin with so just let them have the 46-quid. The other half is saying no, b*ll*cks.

How the flux can tweaking my occupation AND/OR confirming the van as a slightly lesser spec than they thought initially result in a higher premium?

What’s tipped me over the edge with all this is that I received not one but TWO calls about the SAME proposal 12 hours into the cover stating that I had qualified for an INTRODUCTORY DISCOUNT if I gave them the business.

Will someone get hold of the insurance industry and give it a good shake, please?

Ta.

Manufacturer Warranty: Windscreens

 

 

I replaced a windscreen for an Audi dealer, however, there was nothing wrong with the glass. I asked what the change was for, and it was pointed out that there was an issue with the automatic rain and light sensor. So why was the windscreen cited as the issue?

In his report, the investigating Audi technician concluded that the sensor was not functioning due to the car having a non-genuine windscreen replacement; the (aftermarket screen in it was made by AGC Automotive). As the car was to be sold whilst still under manufacturer warranty the investigation ended there, and could not be resumed until a genuine, Audi branded glass was in place. I duly obliged. However, shortly into the strip-down I discovered what the cause of the issue really was: a damaged rain sensor. The previous installer had damaged the circuit board inside (there were screwdriver marks in the casing).

The car in question was registered in 2016, so much of its warranty would have still been in place; just as long as any parts replaced were authentic, Audi branded.

Rain Sensor 2

Windscreen Rain Sensor

 

Another similar situation unfolded when a Volkswagen main agent was investigating a sensitivity issue on a rain sensor on a fairly new Golf; the owner said the automatic wipers didn’t seem to react as well as he though they should. The VW technician noted the windscreen, an aftermarket version by Saint Gobain (Sekurit) and quickly surmised that it was the cause of the problem. I went along to give a second opinion.

The first place to look for obvious things that could be wrong with a poorly functioning rain sensor is the rain sensor module. I removed the rear view mirror assembly and immediately saw that the rain sensor was not seated properly in the mounting bracket. A push and a click later, the wiper sensitivity was restored to optimum level. However, VW did tell the Golf owner that if there was an issue with the rain sensor (or windscreen) whilst the car was under manufacturer warranty, it would not be covered owing to the non-genuine windscreen in the car.

Whilst these examples may seem excessive, windscreens can be much more complex than the two highlighted here. With radio antennae; heater elements; GPS hardware and software with the latest Garmin update; Lane Departure Warning sensors; Autonomous Braking hardware; Head Up Display and more, the windscreen is no longer just a piece of glass shielding the car’s occupants from wind and flies. The best available parts, especially if the car is still under warranty (or the more technology connected to the glass) will always be what the vehicle manufacturer endorses.

 

Minding the ‘A’ Pillar Gap

 

 

 

Is it necessary to remove the ‘A’ pillar trims when replacing a windscreen. For most older, rubber fit windscreens: probably not. However, if you were replacing a bonded windscreen by the book, most definitely: yes.

Windscreen replacement is evolving at a rapid rate. This evolution however, is focusing on a fast fit culture to save time and money. So why is it important to remove the ‘A’ pillar covers, or trims?

Removing the windscreen: the trims are very close to the bond line. When cutting through the cured polyurethane – and whichever cutting method is used – there is risk of damage to the trim, or the trim covering. Some trims may even be touching the polyurethane [PUR] and have adhered to the moulding, or fabric covering.

A pillar trim gap

Too close for comfort

When fitting – or replacing – the windscreen, it is good practice to check for good contact by shining a torch up and down the ‘A’ pillars from inside the car. This is almost impossible to do with the covers in place. Also, if there is any ooze, you can tidy this up to prevent contact with the pillar trims.

'A' pillar trim removed showing proximity to edge

‘A’ pillar trim removed showing proximity to edge

A lot of firms and fitters are using trim protectors to prevent damage to these items, and the advent of fibre cutting wires has further reduced this risk. It does not however mean that the next time the windscreen is replaced any damage will be avoided as there is no emphasis on checking for proper contact; how can you, when it is behind a cover?

Annoying Sales Call Assassination

Quote

 

 

 

Mancunian bloke: “Can I speak to the business owner?”

Certainly. What’s your call in connection with?

“My name’s Gary and I’m calling from The Business Consultants. It’s a quick business enquiry about…”

[I interrupt his introduction] I can help you with that; do you have a registration number?

“What for?”

Your car…

“What about my car?”

So it’s not your car?

“What car?”

For someone who said it was a quick business enquiry, you’re dragging your feet a bit. How about a model and year?

“You what, mate?”

The car. What model is it?

“Whose car?”

Do you even know, yourself?

“Know what?”

Whose car it is?

“Why are you asking me about a car?”

…because you’ve called a windscreen replacement business and I cannot help *you* unless you help *me* identify the vehicle.

[he hung up] Job done. Killed him.

Windscreen Claims: Know Who You’re Dealing With

 

 

 

 

When a windscreen repair or replacement company says they can direct bill insurance companies, or that they’re ‘insurance approved’, there’s something else you should know.

Insurance companies do not like dealing with multiple suppliers. It’s far easier to deal with one two or three nationwide repairers which in turn makes dealing with any claims a much more manageable task for them. Typically, those repairers will be Autoglass, Auto Windscreens and National Windscreens. None of these companies use subcontractors or a supplier network. They operate in their own individual ways using their own employed staff. The exception to this used to be AA Autowindshields (now acquired by and operated by the same parent company as Auto Windscreens) who, in an attempt to cover areas in which they did not have a presence, would appoint a local company as a sub contractor to act on their behalf. Contracts are designed on service delivery, coverage and price.

Autoglass parent company Belron also operates (among its other businesses) Glasscare which acts as a price mechanism designed to profit from those who use it, and also to act as a (price) comparator in the interests of their sister windscreen fitting concern. The Supplier Invoice Control Program ( “SICP” ) allows smaller companies (those who do not have direct billing arrangements with the insurers for whom Glasscare are acting as agents) to invoice insurance companies for windscreen (and glass) repair and replacement jobs. The SICP system is a price regulator, and will also take steps to ensure that the claim is genuine. Each user of the system is required to input details specific to each claim – or job – before a prescribed rate is given. The rates are often questionable, but remain subjective to purchase price (of parts) and each individual business in terms of their size and operation. As its name suggests, the control program is tailored around the arrangement Autoglass has with each respective insurer. It does not entitle anyone using the system (other than the nominated supplier, Autoglass) direct access to any of those insurers. By this, the claim of having to ‘direct bill’ insurance companies is not true. Another false claim is for anyone – other than the prevailing preferred repairer – to claim they are insurance approved. Whilst Glasscare will occasionally and periodically audit its users, no checks are carried out on the work itself.

National Windscreens also operates a similar system. Whilst the brand is essentially nationwide, the company is made up of smaller independent companies who operate under the National Windscreens banner. Another similar network of suppliers quite new to the industry is Nationwide Windscreen Services. This is a group independent companies covering designated and predetermined areas of the country. Whilst National Windscreens or Nationwide may be better qualified to an insurance approved claim, it still does little more than delegate tasks to sub contractors who remain as third parties throughout.

There are no exceptions to the direct billing and insurance approved claims. There are however, some companies who do have a direct billing, or nominated supplier arrangement with some insurance companies, such as Silver Shield Windscreens and Catlin Insurance and Nationwide Motorglass and Hastings Insurance.

Look Without Watching

 

Why watching your windscreen fitter may not be a good idea.

 

The moment you have been fearing has arrived. You’re about to have your windscreen replaced, and the thought of a stranger getting intimate with your car is making you feel uncomfortable. What do you do?

An immediate and infinite resource is the internet, and you can always tap into the experience of somebody else who has survived such an event; forewarned is forearmed. However, one commonly offered fragment of windscreen wisdom might just preempt the very thing you fear the most.

Windscreen Replacement in Progress

Windscreen Replacement in Progress

Popular advice to, “watch the fitter like a hawk” is understandable given the horror stories being recited by those who have had the misfortune of witnessing them. But what if your own actions are to blame? What if your own fear becomes the cause of the fitter fluffing it? Nothing says, ‘you cannot be trusted to do a good job without me watching you’ more than becoming the technician’s shadow during the process. This is not to say that you should not be around, or that you’re not welcome, but discussing your concerns could mean that you may not, after all, have to perch yourself upon the poor chap’s shoulder, ready to Kango through his skull, to peck out his brain the moment he slips up.

Hiding in Garage

Resist hiding in your garage

Relax. If you’ve been diligent in your research you might even have the right person turning up to do the job. In which case, greet him, exchange a few pleasantries and simply get on with your day (offer him a cup of tea as you would do with anyone when welcoming them to your abode). Breaking your new-windscreen-replacement virginity however may require a bit more courting before the fitter starts stripping down (the car, that is).  Do make yourself available, perhaps telling him where you’ll be should he need you for anything.This may also be a useful time to utilise, perhaps in the garage, garden or greenhouse for example.

Windscreen Replacement in Progress

The Stealth Watchman

Is it alright to watch the fitter from start to finish?

Ask him (or her) if they would mind you being nosey. Be honest about it (but without being obvious). Many tradesmen cannot perform if they’re being watched. It makes them nervous, or that they become too aware of the company which throws them off their routine. Replacing a windscreen is a methodology which requires concentration and alertness. An experienced windscreen technician – or automotive glazier – will follow a step-by-step procedure they have in their head, and this (usually) ensures everything gets done, and in the right order. In the circumstances it is probably best to leave him to his own devices; you’re just going to have to trust him, but do try and tap into your own instincts. Does he inspire confidence? Is he well presented? Is his van clean and tidy? How happy (or sad) is his demeanor? Remember, he’s not only working on your car; he’s also your guest and so you should make him feel as welcome as one. If the impression you get is not good, it might just be your cue to become a curtain twitcher.

Windscreen Voyeurism?

Peekaboo! Windscreen Voyeurism?

By all means look, but try not to watch. You could end up maneuvering your gaze into a voyeuristic trespass.

 

 

To See, or Not to See

 

 

Now You See It…

An illustration of Before and After stages of a typical windscreen repair. 

Have you recently had your windscreen repaired? Were you pleased with the results? Was there a discernible between the before and after appearances of the damage? Would you know a good repair if you saw one? A lot of repairers don’t, never mind how to achieve one.

Windscreen Repair c

Windscreen Repair

A recent thread on Pistonheads  highlighted a common, and proliferating issue in windscreen stonechip repair. There appears to be a perceived acceptance in what a repaired chip looks like, and judging by a lot of evidence, not many people actually know what an aesthetically, structurally and technically sound repair should look like.

Generally speaking, if there is no difference between the ‘before’ and ‘after’ states, it’s not a good repair. In fact, it is likely that the damage – technically speaking – has not been repaired. “It’s been sealed” was the closing line the TVR Wedge owner got on the Pistonheads thread after he questioned the repairer when he claimed to have finished the job. Looking at the end product of the attempted repair, it could be argued that the repairer had little or no grasp of what he (or she) was doing. Irrespective of what the repairer’s assessment of his or her work is, a botch should not be accepted, nor paid for. And as far as assessments go, the repairer – an experienced repairer – can usually anticipate what the likely outcome will be before attempting a repair. In the case of the TVR owner, the windscreen is now potentially ruined, and the car may even fail its next MOT.

What does a ‘good’ repair look like?

The answer is quite simple. If, by looking at the windscreen, you can easily see the damage you shouldn’t be able to see it without looking for it once it has been repaired. This, however, is subjective to a few important factors:

  1. size;
  2. position on the windscreen;
  3. type of damage;
  4. the age of the chip (or how long it has been exposed to water and contaminants).

Ambient temperature, lighting, equipment, quality of consumable products and the experience of the technician are vitally important aspects which the repairer relies on in order to give prominence to his or her skill. The following image shows a common stone chip on a windscreen.

Chipped Windscreen

Damaged Windscreen

The chip is showing an impact crater (in the middle of the arc shape) and two smaller chips above it. There is one visible crack emanating from the centre of the impact point and threatening to travel southwest; the arc shape is often referred to as a ‘half moon’ although it almost has bears a resemblance to a ‘beeswing’. Underneath the arc shape are two more cracks: one feint crack perpendicular to the southwest pointing crack, and one dissecting the two smaller upper impacts. Placing a mirror behind the break adds clarity:

Mirror Behind Stonechip

Mirror Behind Stonechip

Using a mirror allows the technician to see how the break is responding as various repair techniques are utilised. These are carefully honed skills which enable the break to be manipulated in order to allow the repair resin to penetrate fully into each crack.

Windscreen After Repair

Windscreen After Repair

With the repair complete, and the apparatus removed, the above image shows what the (now repaired) damage looks like with a mirror reflecting light back through the glass. In technical terms (or optics) the light propagating through a medium (in this example, glass) has a refractive index or index of refraction: a dimensionless number which determines how much light is bent, or refracted, when entering a material. With the mirror removed light no longer reflects back through the glass:

Repaired Stone Chip with Mirror Removed

Repaired Stone Chip with Mirror Removed

As good as a repair can look when finished, there is no miraculous vanishing trick. There will always be at least some trace of the damage. This is usually the outline of the impact crater and some visible evidence of the bonded cracks:

A Shadow of its Former Self

A Shadow of its Former Self

It should be noted that whilst there is a mirror present, there is no smoke to trick you into looking elsewhere. Given the nature and definition of glass (it’s transparent!) resolution and focus will always be difficult to replicate from shot to shot when capturing images. A camera will passively focus on an area detected by the autofocus – or AF – sensor(s). The camera in all images was on a standard iPhone 6 device, and by placing it on a predetermined, X, Y and Z axis. The AF was allowed to detect what was in front of it, and the same three manual overrides were used before each image was taken. In no way was it an accurate science. These images were capture in a very basic exercise in order to illustrate the before and after of a windscreen stone chip repair.

As with all posts, comments and feedback welcomed, and gratefully received.

It’s Only a Joint?

 

 

 

When butting up the PUR adhesive, most windscreen fitters are taught to run past the starting point and overlap the joint. This technique envelops the join, and is the easiest one to program the OEM robots with. Is this the best way? Why does it matter?

Wide

Overlapped PUR Joint

This joint measured about 50mm in width, more than double the industry average. So what’s the issue? It’s a joint, and other than the somewhat abstract appearance, it looks like it ‘did the job’, right? Here’s what it looked like on the other side after cutting through it with a sharp blade:

FullSizeRenderTunnel

Tunneling

As you can see on the left hand side, there was very little adhesion; about 4mm in fact. The shiny bit to the right of the image is cured PUR which was not making any contact with anything. If it’s not making contact, it’s useless; superfluous. A waste of product material, and potentially a catalyst for a defect in the windscreen, or glass performance.

 

 

 

 

Misconceptions About Windscreen Replacement

 

 

 

Myths and Misconceptions about Windscreen Replacement.

1. It’s windscreen (or windshield). It is not a window screen.

2. Mastic is not used to bond windscreens into a car. The correct product is a high performance, specific and automotive grade Polyurethane ( “PUR” ) adhesive system which can only be used in conjunction with its own activators and primers.

3. With rare exception, generally speaking, genuine OEM glass parts (marked with the car manufacturer’s emblem) are not the same as those without. Contrary to internet folklore, there is not a little man sat at the end of windscreen production lines ‘stamping’ logos on windscreens. If it does not bear the (car) manufacturer’s logo, it’s not as good as one that does.

4. Those black dots you see around the windscreen are not part of the radio antenna.

5. Acoustic (or acoustically insulated) windscreens do not feature a thicker Polyvinyl Butyral ( “PVB” ). It is in fact two additional layers (compared to one for standard windscreens). The three layered PVB comprises of an acoustic dampening layer which is sandwiched between two thin sheets of standard PVB.

6. All laminated windscreens are made from clear glass. It is the PVB layer which is tinted.

7. Despite what you may have been told, most windscreens can be removed from a vehicle without damaging it, or the vehicle. There are, of course, risks attached to the process but these are mostly related to human error somewhere along the line.

8. Black primer – or adhesion promoter – is not designed for painting over scratches. The emphasis – conversely – should to avoid scratching the paintwork leaving the black primer to be used for what it is intended for, and that is, on freshly painted surfaces, or bared metal (from cutting back the old PUR). Black primer is also not a rust inhibitor and anyone using it so is merely painting over a continuing, and worsening, corrosion issue.

Motor Insurance: Windscreen Cover

 

 

By law you must have motor insurance to drive your vehicle on roads in the United Kingdom. This requirement has created an industry which is currently thought to be worth an estimated £9.4 billion a year. In short, you need insurance, and the providers want your business, but who does this obligation really suit?

Consumers are always looking for value for money, and sellers are constantly looking at different ways to provide it, especially in a competitive industry; gaining that edge to attract more business can cause confusion in the marketplace. With so many benefits and bolt-ons to consider one area which is not so clear (until a claim is made) is windscreen – or glass damage – cover.

Documents

So much paperwork

To be fair to all prospective insurers, there’s a lot to discuss and they are required to follow a strict code of conduct as laid out by various regulatory bodies related to the various aspects of their industry. The aim of Insurance Conduct of Business Sourcebook (ICOBS) is to ensure that customers are treated fairly. One section in particular is one which some might feel is not being observed. ICOBS 6.1.5 states:

 

“A firm must take reasonable steps to ensure a customer is given appropriate information about a policy in good time and in a comprehensible form so that the customer can make an informed decision about the arrangements proposed”.

 

 

Before policy inception, the proposing insurer should make clear the relevant, and salient, points which would apply in the event of a claim. Did your insurance company (or broker) do that? Did you feel furnished with the facts? If you were comparing the market on a price comparison website (PCW) perhaps not. Or perhaps you just confirmed that you have “read and understood” the Terms & Conditions (a usually tedious read of strange words used in an unfamiliar format or convoluted syntax). Or may be you were swept along by the user-friendly wave, washing you up at the checkout before you knew it? In some cases, there will be some disclosure before a decision is finalised.

Vague

Ambiguity

 

In the example shown, it wasn’t clear where the additional details would be found as it wasn’t in the “Policy Summary”. There was no mention in the “Schedule” either, and just to add to the confusion, there was no “Policy Booklet”. A bit more reading and searching revealed a small box in a very generic-looking table of contents found on a ‘Key Facts’ document which had no reference to the vehicle, or proposed policy:

 

“Call the <insurer name> Glass line on <number> and your windscreen will be replaced subject to a £60 excess. There is no excess if the windscreen can be repaired rather than replaced. See section 8 of the policy book for full details.”

 

 

Including the covering letter, there were a total of 20 sheets of paper in this particular proposal, but no ‘policy book’. Furthermore there is nothing to indicate anything even close to resembling a booklet, or indeed anything replacing a booklet resembling a series of pages with at least eight sections amongst them. At this point it is worth remembering what ICOBS 6.1.5 states, “A firm must take reasonable steps to ensure a customer is given appropriate information about a policy in good time and in a comprehensible form so that the customer can make an informed decision about the arrangements proposed”. Meanwhile, all this is taking place during your lunch break as you rack up your inclusive minutes on your mobile phone as you remain engaged and locked into calling a non geographical telephone number.  Even asking the seemingly helpful telephone staff to clarify what exactly ‘unlimited cover’ means, and what would happen in the event of a claim, is futile, “It means the underwriter will pay for the cost of replacing the damaged glass.” Notwithstanding the glaringly obvious, but the word ‘unlimited’ in this context might appear irrelevant, or redundant. And herein lies the issue.

There is:

  1. a Renewal Notice covering letter;
  2. what appears to be a (somewhat presumptuous) thank you (for choosing to renew) letter;
  3. a Statement of Fact document;
  4. a Statement of Demands and Needs document with a summary of cover on the reverse;
  5. two pages of a Key Facts summary (which appears to echo the preceding documents!)
  6. a Direct Debit information document;
  7. a Terms of Business page consisting of lots of smallprint;
  8. a four-page copy of a ‘Motor Legal Expenses Insurance’ booklet;
  9. eight pages of the Terms & Conditions pertaining to breakdown cover.

There is not anything to explain the process of claiming for glass damage.

In failing to define the outcome of initiating a pending claim by not stating that they will steer you into using their nominated repairer, they are not presenting you with an important fact of a policy (of which you might be about to enter into a contractual agreement with the insurer over). Is it not a good time before the terms are accepted and agreed, and a transaction is completed to disclose that there is a preferred supplier restriction in place, and that the policyholder will only be indemnified for part of the loss should they choose their own repairer?

Smashed Windscreen

Windscreen Damage

At the time of discussing these finer details of the proposed renewal in this instance, there was no clarification available. It is not a training issue either. The insurer’s representative should be in a position to present the facts, yet all they could state was something quite vague and ambiguous. It’s is too easy for the insurer. There appears to be very little focus on what the consumer wants, or deserves, as the deal is weighted in favour of the insurer. Meanwhile, the insured walks away with a cheaper deal (which, when you consider the hidden – or non-disclosed – restrictions re repairers and claim limits perhaps explains why the deal was cheaper).

Expanding on the adage that ‘you get what you pay for’, it is time that consumers insisted on clarifying exactly what it is they are paying for before policy inception rather than after an incident which leads to a claim.

It’s time to be wise before the event.