This is simply an anecdotal tale of my personal experience, but it seems to illustrate so much that is wrong with being an ordinary individual in modern late capitalist society, that I thought it was worth relating.
I sit writing in my study. Water is dripping through the ceiling across the other side of the room.
After a heavy storm about six weeks ago, there was a downpour from the ceiling. The water was very dark and smelly. I don’t think I have any outflow pipes it could possibly come from, or I would have thought it was sewage.
So I phoned the insurance company. I bought the household insurance through Comparethemarket.com. I accepted a quote from a company called CETA which was for approximately £450 per year.
So I called the Claims number provided and was rather surprised to find the phone answered by a totally different company, the Davies Group. I spoke to a very pleasant lady with a young voice who had great difficulty hearing me and apologised for her faulty headset. She promised to phone me back the next morning.
The next morning she did phone me back, took my policy details and the nature of my claim, and said they would be in touch.
Nothing happened for another week. Water continued to drip in occasionally, adding to the internal damage.
After about another ten days I received a phone call from a drone operator. They wanted permission to access my property to make a drone survey of the house for the insurer. I confess I was rather surprised by this, especially as you can walk on to the flat roof above the study via a door from the bedroom. But I agreed.
The water continued to drip in. The floor now needs replacement.
Eventually the drone came and went. More time passed. Then I received another email pointing out that it was a condition of the policy that any flat roof must have been inspected, and repaired if necessary, in the two years prior to the start of the policy.
By total chance, I had in fact had the flat roof relaid in the two years prior to the start of the policy. The Davies Group – who in this email described themselves as “loss adjusters”- had asked for evidence that the work had been carried out by a qualified roofer.
A general building company doing maintenance had sub-contracted the roofer, so more time went by – and more water came in – while I obtained documents from the actual roofing company. This eventually happened and I sent them to the Davies Group.
The Davies Group are also asking for “evidence” that no more than 50% of the roof of the property is flat roof. But it is obviously well less than 50% and they have themselves sent up a drone, so they have the evidence already.
It has been raining heavily and the water is coming in quite hard. What kind of insurance company immediately puts all claims – including quite small ones like this – out to a loss adjuster?
They seem to be spending more resources denying the claim than it would cost to fix the leak. What was the drone for?
I called the Davies Group this morning, and got another nice young lady who could not access my claim as their systems were down, and asked me to call back in a few hours.
I therefore decided to call the CETA Group who comparethemarket.com had listed as the insurer and who had sent me the policy documents. That did not get me very far. CETA are not an insurer, but a broker. Their website calls them “the broker for the broker”.
So comparethemarket.com – which is licensed as an “insurance intermediary”, had taken my money and sold me a policy provided by CETA, an insurance broker.
But what company was actually insuring me? It would be neither the intermediary nor the broker.
I phoned CETA and spoke to a very helpful lady in a call centre, apparently overseas. She read from her screen and kept trying to refer me to the Davies Group.
I explained that I did not want to speak to the loss adjusters, I wished to speak to my actual insurer.
After a long, long phone conversation she spoke to her supervisor and I was given an 0203 number for the insurer, where I was told I could register a complaint about claims handling.
I called this number which was for a company named Arkel. Now after research I found that Arkel are in fact also not the insurer. They are an underwriting agency, which is an agent that has been given the authority by the insurer to conclude contracts.
Arkel do not have a website but do have a Linkedin page. They are a little company with just seven employees.
When I phoned Arkel, I was answered by a young man who just gave his own name, not the company, and plainly was not expecting to receive calls from a member of the public. He really did sound exactly as though I had just woken him up.
However when I explained the situation he could not have been more friendly and helpful. He explained that Arkel do not handle claims, but he did offer to contact the Davies Group on my behalf and find out what was happening, and I believed he would do it.
By this time I had read very carefully through my policy document, and while it had a big Arkel letterhead at the top, in the detail it gave the name of the actual insurer as the Chaucer Insurance Company.
The Chaucer Insurance Company is in fact 100% owned by China Re. China Re is 100% owned by the Chinese state.
I was just trying to get my roof fixed and the ceiling repaired. I did not expect to have all this trouble, or to discover my home is actually insured by the Chinese state, to which, while it seems a strange thing for the Chinese state to spend its time doing, I have no objection.
But consider this. I bought my insurance from comparethe market.com, an “insurance intermediary”, who took a cut. They got it from CETA, an “insurance broker”, who took a cut. They got it from Arkel, an “underwriting agent”, who took a cut. They were acting on behalf of Chaucer Insurance, whose frontmen get a cut from China Re, who ultimately get the profit, which goes to the Chinese State.
It is amazing there is anything left from my £450 to be pooled for the payment of claims. Which is perhaps why any claims immediately go to a loss adjuster – who of course gets yet another cut – and we have weeks of messing around, including drone shots of a roof you can walk on.
For me the worst part of this has been that every individual I have spoken to, in all these companies, has seemed a really nice person, genuinely wanting to help, but stuck there wearing a headset, reading limited responses from a screen, operating within their tiny delimited space in this nightmarish corporate jungle.
So many people now have this kind of utterly demeaning employment it has a real effect on human welfare.
Since I started writing, another very nice gentleman from CETA has called me in response to a lousy review I published on Trustpilot. He too said he would contact the Davies Group.
It is impossible that in the real world this corporate spaghetti is more efficient than the old insurance company that used to collect premiums and handle its own claims.
Involving this vast plethora of intermediaries can only work by screwing more out of the consumer – by not paying their claims.
Automatically bringing in loss adjusters on a small household claim is vexatious.
This is just a small personal story, but it seems to illustrate how impossible it has become for ordinary people to interact effectively with the hypercapitalism that orders so much of our lives.
Finally one last irony.
I did not expect to find the Chinese State insuring my home. The claim is being “handled” by loss adjusters The Davies Group, a huge portmanteau services company.
The Davies Group is 100% owned by BC Partners.
BC Partners is 100% owned by the Guardian Media Group.
I didn’t expect that either. The Guardian. Loss adjusters to the Chinese state. Welcome to 2023.
UPDATE Incredibly the loss adjuster has come up with a new reason to try to deny the claim. They say that the weather in Swanston 18 to 19 June did not meet the definition of “storm.”
The word “storm” does not in fact appear in the policy document, so I don’t know where this comes from.
They have now accepted my evidence that the roof was relaid by a qualified roofer in 2020, and that less than 50% of the roof area is flat.
They have referred the question of “storm” to the insurer and promised me an answer in three to four days, “Possibly sooner”. The rain is still dripping in. END UPDATE
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