1st Central Insurance sharp practice?
TLDR - 1st Central are trying to charge extra for a change of occupation that was not requested.
On 2nd April we ran a comparison on Compare the Market and 1st Central came up the cheapest at £330 so we (me on my daughter's behalf) purchased the policy and paid in full ready for the policy to start on 28th April.
On 10th May we received an email requesting documents.
- Proof of No Claims Discount (NCD)
- Proof of home address dated within the last 3 months
- Front and back of the photocard driving licence
- The unique check code from the DVLA website
On 12th May we uploaded all but 1 of the documents. We were unable to provide a form of proof of address from their list of approved documents but uploaded her tenancy agreement and added the comment as follows: “I am living in A***** Town temporarily for 18 months whilst I am completing an apprenticeship.” This comment was added to explain why she did not have a bill or bank statement with her current address on. She is renting a room and all bills are included so nothing in her name. She has a 12 month contract at that address and may well move back to our home address after 18 months so had not changed her address with her bank. We called the documents department as requested and was told my tenancy agreement was not enough even though we mentioned the above reason so it was suggested that she make the change to her bank address. This was completed and uploaded on 21st May at which point a charge of £213.41 (inc. £50 admin fee) was added to her policy for changes made!
On calling the documents department we were informed that driving license dates were incorrect and had been updated – I do not understand this comment because all the correct details were added to Compare The Market, including driving licence numbers, and can only conclude that something has changed when the data is imported into the 1st Central system. Actually, CTM only ask how long you have had your driving license and then 1st Central system just adds it as 1st April of (this year subtract years held).
We were also told that there was a change of occupation, this is the point where we have a dispute. The Compare The Market system asks “What do you do for a living?” She works at a bird sanctuary looking after birds and displaying birds in shows to the public. She tried “bird” in the text box with no results. She tried “animal” with no results. Then she tried “zoo” and zoo keeper appeared and I fully believe that this is the best result from the drop down menu. Having researched further we have discovered that the 1st Central system itself asks “What is your current occupation?” This furthers my belief that Zoo Keeper is the best and most correct answer. At no point did either of us think to use the word apprentice as that is not an occupation.
We struggled to get anyone on the phone to understand our point that no request for occupation change had been made and so contacted the cancellations department. We were then informed that there was a fee of £31.82 for the 26 days of cover we had already had, fair enough. But on top of that there was a £50 cancellation fee, a £50 arrangement fee and a £50 admin fee, leaving just £151.49 refund from the £333.31 paid up front. (We have since confirmed that these fees were incorrectly quoted and so this point has been added to the complaint.)
At this point we decided to make a complaint for what we believe can be described as sharp practice by 1st Central. 1st Central cannot just decide to change the occupation to a more expensive one. Any reasonable person who knows her would agree that she is an animal keeper. We chose the best option available. Exactly as the MSE website describes, for me I use Clerical Assistant rather than Administration Assistant as it is slightly cheaper.
complaint has been raised we have tried to run some new insurance quotes but the
prices suddenly increased to double what we had received earlier that same day.
Has a marker been added to her record while this is being resolved maybe?
Are we in the right?
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Occupation is a subjective field which is why sites like this have recommend people manipulate their responses. Until you know what they think it should have been classified as its difficult to say who is more likely to be right, without defined terms it'll come down to dictionary definitions and what the average person would think.
It is rare for complaints to go anywhere near the 8 week limit, they do take longer than you would hope, generally because responses have to be reviewed before they go out etc and with a dozen complaint handlers to a complaint team leader they can be a bottle neck.
Are we in the right?
The cancellation charge is fair as it's published. Although if they decide the rest of the complaint is upheld, they may waive it.
Maybe the best outcome to target is getting the occupation amended at no cost and not cancelling the policy.
Thank you for your replies, you have helped me put my mind at rest which is what I needed to help me stop thinking about it while we wait.
The reply went into detail about how they had listened to the calls and how the word apprentice was used on the call and that the change had to be made and was done so at the time and had incurred a charge and that the charge was correct. Offers were made to reduce the amount owed 'as a gesture of goodwill' or we could cancel and receive an amount back less the time used and they would waive the £50 cancellation fee but still charge the admin fee of £50.
So I rang them to discuss this and carefully mentioned that I ran a quote again today using the word apprentice and the policy would only be £20 more than we were charged in April and that I understood that quotes change across the year but £20 was a far cry from £213. I also pointed out, again, that apprentice is not an occupation or job description or what she does for a living but rather that it is a level and that apprentice seems to be an anomaly across all sectors, she cannot receive student discounts anywhere nor get an NUS card for example. The call handler agreed with everything I said, went to speak to a supervisor and waived the fee completely!
It is my opinion that, if apprentice makes such a difference, it should be an option in the precious drop down menu of "Employment status" where you would chose Full Time employee, Part Time employee, Student etc. I have written to Compare the Market suggesting this too.
You have to remember that 1st Central are an intermediary though and have a panel of insurers. You therefore technically cannot say apprentice only makes £20 difference really because when you buy insurance from an intermediary you are locked in with both the insurer and the intermediary. When you are getting quotes though the first quote for a non-apprentice may have been ERS but the second as an apprentice from Skyfire. ERS may be charging £230 more for being an apprentice and as you've bought an locked in any changes have to be at that insurers rates.
You're free to contact the aggregators like confused.com with your suggestion but they follow what the insurers ask for. As some insurers have more options than others in the drop down menu there is then a translation table which, for example, would convert "residential parking" to "on driveway" for Axa as they dont offer the response of "residential parking" in answer to the question of where you keep the car at night. If the aggregators followed your suggestion of introducing apprentice as an option then no insurer would see it because no insurer is asking for it and so it'd be translated to something these.
Job titles etc are a pain because many people are multi-hatted... I am a director of a company, I act as a consult to insurance companies and I generally provide programme management as my service so there are three job titles straight away and it ignores the other kinds of work I sometimes pick up or that sometimes my client may be a bank or supermarket but I'm dealing with their insurance offering
As for job titles, yes a complete pain, especially in this case. My husband pointed out that he has been an Aircraft Engineer for 35 years but in that time he has moved from Apprentice through mechanic and technician to senior technician but all the time he has stayed an Aircraft Engineer. Or maybe an Aircraft Technician. It really depends on the drop down list.
Hey Ho, we can't change the world
They found some minor discrepancy and wanted to charge the earth plus £100 admin fee.
So I cancelled (with extra £50 fee as well).
Re-checked with compare the market, or go compare (cant remember) and again 1st central came up with the best quote. I checked and double checked my entries were correct and went ahead again with 1st Central.
Now I have the same email from them saying they need to re-check all those documents AGAIN.
I really think this is a con!
anyway they never replied to my pdf from previous insurer and have just cancelled my policy.
i am fuming, as they say i am due a £5 refund because they charged me double after saying i didnt provide the evidence which i did.