Make sure you cover your back: When Jagdish Radia rang me from Leaway Service Station in Birmingham, in late April, he had been without insurance cover for over a month: a shock-horror story if ever I’d heard one.
He had a big problem with his (now ex-) insurer. For the past two years his broker, RK Henshall, had placed his insurance with major insurance group Ergo. Ergo had also covered the forecourt for the previous owner.
Jagdish had a brief incident last year (a thug bashed up the serving hatch and a pump) and Ergo had paid up. Renewal was due last September and he paid the slightly increased (as expected) £3,800 premium. In October, the agent arranged a risk improvement survey which Ergo paid for. I’ve subsequently seen the survey it’s eight pages of risk improvement requirements.
According to Henshall they sent him this list of things he had to do in November/December. But Jagdish didn’t receive it. On January 19 he went to India, leaving his mobile at home and therefore missed the first warning email sent to his phone on January 20, saying that he must complete the risk requirements by a certain deadline. By the time he got back it left him little time to do so. He spoke to Henshall on several occasions asking for an extended deadline but Ergo stood fast by its March cut off.
They also wanted another survey to prove compliance costing the retailer £500. Once he had completed the improvements he said that he had all the paperwork so why did he need another survey?
So there he was without insurance cover.
When he rang me he was worried that the next insurer would want to know if he has been refused insurance in the past, so it didn’t look good. I urged him to go back to RK Henshall as they had offered to try and find him another insurer because at least they knew the background.
I also consulted Forecourt Trader’s usual insurance advisor to ask whether it is standard practice to carry out these surveys and whether they cost £500.
The advice was that the premium mentioned appeared to be about the average for a forecourt with convenience store.
Here’s the official word: "Following a claim, insurers review the current security arrangements, and, in order to reduce the risk of subsequent claims especially theft and vandalism often issue further requirements or recommendations. Requirements are just that a requirement, and should be done within the timescale stipulated.
Recommendations are advisory. It is the policyholder’s responsibility to minimise the risks (this is stated in virtually every policy) and so when an insurer issues a requirement, it is issued with the aim of reducing the potential for future claims. This helps the retailer to have a renewal with less chance of loading for claims, and also enables brokers to shop around more easily. This is an aspect often not perceived by the policyholder.
"If the retailer does not complete the requirements within the timescale given, insurers may well exclude theft and malicious damage until the requirements are complete. If they are not done by renewal, the insurer may decline invitation to renew, and this will seriously affect the retailer’s chances of easily obtaining alternative quotes. If he does find another insurer, it will still be the norm to not give theft and malicious damage cover until the requirements issued by the previous company have been complied with, and verified by the insurer’s surveyor.
"There is not normally a charge for an initial post-loss survey, but there usually is a charge for a subsequent post-loss survey after failure to comply with the requirements.
"Five hundred pounds is within normal charging range. It is quite normal for a re-survey after failure to complete the upgrades within the timescale."
I checked back with Jagdish with the advice to approach our trusted insurance broker, but he had already found another which had arranged for cover cheaper than his original policy. I do hope the cover is adequate!
An inside job
Down in Devon the local press have been heralding Trude Mian as a "hero grandmother who has turned crime fighter for the second time".
As we reported two years ago, Trude had previously faced down two armed robbers, grabbing one of their knives and seeing them swiftly off the premises (Knowle Garage in Braunton). It was all caught on CCTV and they got 13 years between them. The judge commended Trude and awarded her £500.
Her husband Khaliq Mian said this time it was an inside job. They had both noticed that profits weren’t what they might be and put it down to tough times, but then after monitoring it for three/four months, Trude noted a discrepancy between the till and the petrol receipts amounting to £6,030. It was always on the same guy’s shift and checks showed that he was taking cash and ringing up ’no sale’ up to 30 times a shift.
"He was with us for nine years so we don’t know how much he stole altogether," says Khaliq. "We reported it to the police and he admitted to stealing £1,000."
He said that he had spent the money on a home cinema and an iPhone. The court gave him 12 months, suspended for two years and ordered him to pay back the £6,000, which his defence said he plans to do at the rate of £50 a week. "So he’s laughing isn’t he?" concludes Khaliq.