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I dont really recall what it was that first attracted me to Prudential as a home contents insurance provider. I suspect that it was largely due to the fact that my parents had always been insured for everything by The Man From The Pru and after some pretty dire service from Legal and General, I think I decided to go with Prudential. Ive been insured with them for about seven years, but recent events have led me to question the validity of continuing to pay for cover in this way.
My Prudential policy is a plain speaking policy, which means that all the terms and conditions of the contract are set out very simply. Paperwork is generally kept to a minimum, and all the key facts and figures are laid out in a very simple tabular format, so that you can quickly and easily access all the information that you need. That aside, there are some policy exclusions and amendments that are still presented separately - and in a very small font.
Home contents insurance can be a bit of a nightmare, as there tend to be limits placed on the amount payable per item according to whether the item is indoors or away from the home, and certain items need to be individually specified. On my policy, for example, both my Sony television and Tag watch are itemised independently, as they are both worth more than the £1000 limit on an individual item. There are also different kinds of cover. Some policies operate on a new for old basis, whereas others will settle based on the current market value minus reasonable depreciation. You also need to state whether you want cover for cash in the home, protection against accidental damage and cover for items away from the home. Its also worth noting how much the total value of cover is. The press often recounts stories of homeowners who simply didnt realise how much it would cost to replace everything until they needed to claim and found themselves horrendously under insured. The documentation for my Prudential policy is excellent - there could be no doubt about what is covered and what is not.
SETTING UP AND CHANGING DETAILS
The policy is very easily set up over the telephone. For a short local rate call, you can provide all your details and obtain immediate cover, conditional on payment being received within a certain time. As with any such service, please remember to take the name of anybody you speak to. Whilst Prudential claim that all calls are recorded, it can be difficult to trace a particular conversation should anything come under dispute. Once your details have been taken over the phone, your policy documentation or quotation is normally despatched straight away - I received mine the next day.
Having moved several times over the last few years, I have found it necessary to change the details on my policy on each occasion and have always completed this over the phone. With a change of address, you will be asked the same questions that a new policyholder is asked, and will eventually be advised whether there is an increase or decrease in the premium. To give credit where due, I have been entitled to a partial refund on nearly every occasion and have received a cheque for the amount owed very quickly. Ensure that details such as house number and postcode are properly confirmed - it is important that all the information on your policy is completely accurate. After a recent change of address, despite several recounts of my new address, I received a call some weeks later from head office to say that a letter had been returned undelivered. It transpired that the postal address had not been captured correctly.
METHODS OF PAYMENT
You can pay for your policy in one annual lump, or in monthly payments by direct debit. I have always chosen to pay for my premium in one go, simply because I dont favour direct debit payments and because they apply a charge (albeit a small one) for paying in instalments. Your annual payment can be made by cheque or by credit card, and this can be done over the phone or in the post.
SERVICE IN GENERAL
The Prudential call centre maintains good opening hours, and is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Friday with limited opening hours on a Saturday and Sunday too. The advisors tend to be helpful, well spoken and knowledgeable, though I have on occasion found them to be slightly argumentative. Details of all calls are clearly noted on an electronic account management system, and they tend to refer to this in the first instance. There are quite clearly standard messages related to administrative delays or similar, and its only if you really push things that youll find that you can actually progress things. The technical department is generally more helpful, and more equipped to offer specialist information.
THE CLAIMS PROCESS
Ive needed to make two claims since I took out cover with Prudential, with different levels of service on each. My original claim was handled very promptly and effectively, and involved a claim manager coming out to see me to sort everything out. The second, more recent claim was an entirely different affair. Following a theft, I contacted the claims department to register a claim, and was given a reference number and told to wait for a call back. No time scale was given as to when the call might occur, and eventually I called back a few days later to chase progress. The nature of the claim involved a third party agency and after booking an appointment with them, I was once again left to wait by the claims department. Having chased the claim a couple more times, it transpired that some faxed paperwork had allegedly gone adrift and that a second copy was required. Having pursued the claim again a few days later, I was advised that there was a backlog in the mail and that items were being handled strictly in order of receipt. At this point, I asked for the claim to be escalated to a manager, and subsequently received a call back, a decision and a cheque within two days.
What Prudential seemed unable to understand was that I expected my claim to be handled as a matter of urgency and that I wouldnt accept administrative delays as a reason for my claim not being settled. I didnt like having to continually chase the claims department and got the impression that the company placed no urgency on my claim whatsoever. If I were to need to make a claim for something that was very important (i.e. my house had burnt down and I had no clothes) I would worry about how attentive Prudential would be.
As an aside, the claims process was managed entirely over the phone - no paperwork was involved whatsoever. I was quite surprised at this, but found it very convenient, and I suspect that Prudential find this easier too. I couldnt really understand why there was such a postal backlog though?
COST AND VALUE FOR MONEY
Prudential has never offered competitive rates on its insurance products - I was always aware that I was paying slightly more than I had to, but was loathe to keep changing provider. Not so long ago, I moved from a semi-rural location into Manchester City centre and was horrified to find that the cost of my premium had nearly trebled. Having rung round a few other providers, I quickly identified that Prudential was trying to charge a lot more than I needed to pay and it was only then that I questioned the validity of remaining with them. Due to the impending claim, I have not had a chance to change supplier up until now, but very soon, Ill be switching to another company. I seem to recall that Prudential announced that it wanted to get rid of its loss-making businesses last year - home contents insurance was one of them. I suspect that the high prices are their way of getting rid of everyone.
THE FINAL VERDICT
Ive never really felt that Prudential values my custom, and their service has worsened as time has gone on. I was extremely unimpressed with the way in which my recent claim was handled, and the 200% increase in premium simply wasnt justified. I simply couldnt recommend this product, as there are plenty of cheaper insurance providers out there. I suspect that the days of Prudential Insurance may well be numbered.
I first heard of Prudential when I was around 6 years old, when they were also an Estate Agents. My mum and dad sold their first house with them and as far as I can remember, were happy with them.
So, when jay and I moved into our first house together in January 2001, I was advised that as we were renting, although we wouldn't need Buildings Insurance, we would need Contents Insurance.
I used Prudential purely on a recommendation - I was 19 at the time and was overawed by the vast amount of the Insurance companies offering their services. After all, I had never had to do anything like this before. A work colleague told me that they had been with prudential for years and were very happy with them.
I signed up with Prudential over their website, www.pru.co.uk. The sign up process was easy, although the layout of their website was slightly different from how it is now. However, having been through their application process again, it asks all of the same questions, etc.
Established in 1848, today Prudential plc is a leading international financial services company with some 16 million customers, policyholders and unit holders and some 22,500 employees worldwide.
In the UK Prudential is a leading life and pensions provider with around seven million customers.
Launched by Prudential in 1998, Egg is an innovative financial services company, with over 3 million customers with a market share of nearly 6% of UK credit card balances.
Prudential offer the following services:
They also do Remortgages, Savings and Investments, Pensions, and Private Medical Insurance
Prudential's 'Benefits' of their Home Insurance:
5% discount when you buy online
Up to 30% No Claims Discount
£40,000 new-for-old contents cover
Up to £250,000 buildings cover
Further discounts available if your home meets with our security requirements
Optional accidental damage and personal possessions cover
24-hour emergency helpline
As of March 2005, Prudential state that their home insurance offers good value, combining competitive premiums, quality cover and efficient customer service. And, new customers moving to Prudential could save up to £82.
Of course, when I signed up 4 years ago, Prudential stated similar facts and also offered a further 5% discount with online applications and so I carried on with my application.
The application process took me around 5 minutes to complete and standard questions were asked if me. Such questions were:
Name, date of birth, House number, property type (such as Flat, Maisonette, Bungalow, etc), the period in which the property was built, which in my case was 1920-1945, No. of bedrooms, etc.
You are asked when you want the cover to start and if you have had any no claims. They then ask security questions about your house, such as 'Do you live in a Neighbourhood Watch area', do you have a professionally installed Alarm and do you have any other Prudential Policies.
Once you are happy with your answers, you can then obtain your Premium. They tell you how the premium is worked out. In my instance, for a 3 bedroom Terraced House in a not so nice part of town, the premium was around £18.00 per month. This was purely for Contents Insurance, to the amount of £10,000.
The amount of £18.00 per month seemed acceptable, although I had not consulted any other Insurance companies to make any comparisons. I proceeded with the application and set a Direct Debit up to pay my monthly premiums.
A few days after completing my application, I received a letter and information pack from Prudential, advising my of the Terms & Conditions of my Policy, what I was and wasn't covered for and contact details should I need to speak to Customer Services or make a claim.
My relationship with Prudential was a quiet one for a year - until we got burgled on 11th January 2002.
It was just after Christmas and I was in Liverpool on a Training Course with my Manager. Jay was at work but his driving job in the area meant that he was able to pop home now and then for a cup of tea. At around 12.30pm, I received a telephone call on my Managers mobile, from work asking me to ring Jay at home urgently. When I rang Jay, he sounded very upset and told me that we had been burgled. Not only that, but apart from taking EVERYTHING, they had totally trashed the house in the process.
I rushed home immediately. I asked Jay how he found the house. He said that he had walked into the front door as normal and noticed that the door to the dining room was open - we always closed it. He went through, cautiously, and noticed that the room was a mess and the back door was open. He then went and looked in all of the other rooms in the house and was greeted with the same mess and nearly everything missing - we fond out later on that they even had the gall to pinch a tube of Pringles from our food cupboard!!!!
The Police had already been contacted but turned up 5 hours later, which I was disgusted with. We rang them 3 times, each time to be told they would be there within the hour. What happened to getting to the scene of a crime immediately, in case the criminals are still in the area!?
In the interim, I retrieved my Prudential policy details and rang their Claims Line. I was greeted with an automated voice who asked me to press different numbers for different departments. I pressed the relevant number for Claims and waited a few minutes to get put through.
When I got through, I explained what had happened and said I wanted to file a claim. The claim process took around 15 minutes. They asked me to start from the very beginning, from when jay first entered the house, to now. They wanted to know how they got in, when was it, did any of the neighbours see (we had already called to our neighbours either side who advised that they didn't see anything), had we called the Police and what was missing.
At that point, we knew the basics of what had gone but we weren't in the right frame of mind to start looking for everything that had gone - that was a process that, I found, took weeks - each day, I would notice something else had gone.
Prudential advised that they would send me a claims form with the details on that I had already provided and I could add the missing items onto there.
We received the claims form, and filled in what we could. Of course, I contacted Prudential a few time after that, telling them that I had noticed something else was missing. I asked them how long the claims process would take - we literally had nothing - even my Passport had been taken. They advised it 'usually' takes a few weeks. In our instance it took 9 months ..
In total, our claim came to around £4,000. Jay and I were young with good jobs and no children. We could afford to treat ourselves and buy the latest gadgets. Unfortunately, Prudential didn't believe us. We had receipts for some items, which they demanded to see. For the items we didn't have receipts for, they demanded we contact the shop we purchased the item from and ask for a duplicate receipt - it was like looking for a needle in a haystack! For any items that had been purchased as gifts (including a Laptop that had been purchased for my by my mum and dad for my 18th Birthday), they wanted an official letter from family members to confirm that they had indeed purchased the goods and asked them to list the price.
I was already disgusted with Prudential. We were living in a house with nothing in it - it was clear to the Police that the house had been totally trashed, Jay and I were both accounted for at work, yet Prudential insinuated that it was an 'inside job'. They had no proof of this.
For any receipts I sent them, they demanded more proof. They sent a 'Loss Adjuster' out to see me - possibly to try and catch me out. He sat with me for 2 hours, asking me the same questions over and over again. He received the same answers. At this point, I was writing weekly letters to Prudential, advising them how very disappointed I was with their service.
They then decided to employ a company of Claims Investigators! Again, I sat through an interrogation, being asked the same questions over and over. They never received any conflicting answers from me, had all of the information they needed, yet still refused to pay us out until their 'investigation had been completed.
At this point, we were both bewildered and upset by the antics of Prudential. They had no reason to doubt us - it seemed they just didn't want to pay out for items that had been stolen. I questioned them many times why they felt they had to do what they were doing - 'Standard Procedure' they said! At one point, they even searched the house - presumably for items we may have hidden!
I contacted the Insurance Ombudsman in August 2002. I explained to them in full what had happened and provided them with copies of letters between Prudential, the Claims Investigators and myself. I provided copies of the receipts - PROOF that I had the items.
Now that the matter was in the hands of the Ombudsman, I contacted Prudential one last time to advise them that they no longer have to answer to me, but to the Ombudsman. I also consulted a Solicitor who asked me to wait a few weeks, to see what result the Ombudsman got.
The ombudsman sent me a form to complete, to confirm that their information was correct. They then wrote to Prudential, giving them 28 days to reply. Their findings were staggering.
Prudential had no evidence on which the base their investigations of us. They admitted they had treated us badly yet despite assurances from the Police that evidence of a break in was apparent, decided to waste everyone's time anyway by conducting an investigation.
We received a letter of apology from Prudential in September 2002, advising that our claim was in the process of being settled and we would hear from them within a week. 7 days later I received a call at work from them, advising that our claim had indeed been settled and a cheque was in the post that day.
The problems didn't stop there - we didn't actually receive the cheque until the end of October 2002 - around 4 weeks after being told it was being sent that day.
When we did receive it, the cheque was for the full amount of our claim. We had to wait a full 9 months before we could buy back what was stolen from us.
As soon as my claim with Prudential was settled, I cancelled my Policy with them immediately. I felt I had to renew it in the January of 2002, in case it jeopardised our claim. I received a phone call a few weeks later asking why I was cancelling !
In the scheme of things, Prudential are a multi million company - our £4,000 claim was nothing to them. I asked them why the pursued us with such venom but they never replied typical of them really.
I shall never ever use Prudential again and I try to warn as many people as I can about them. Jay suffered a nervous breakdown in the midst of all of this, due to the nature in which we were being pursued. I even considered cancelling the claim until I decided that that was exactly what Prudential wanted.
I'm glad that I pursued the claim and stuck to my guns - although we had a happy ending, I can't help wondering how many other people Prudential have done this to. I would thoroughly discourage anyone from dealing with this company.
Foolishly, I had my House insurance cover with my mortgage lender for a large number of years, partly because of lethargy on my part, and later because of their bullying tactics. They insisted I could not go anywhere else; firstly noone gave the same cover as them; then it was the agreement I had signed; then I would be charged £35 to change. Even then they did not guarantee, the new policy would be accepted, and that they needed sight of it first. I got out of this impasse, by using their tactics, I rang them up, wrote letters, and finally insisted that I was cancelling their direct debit and going where I wanted, whether they liked it or not! The out come was that they backed down. I now pay Prudential the same amount for house and contents cover per year that I did for the house cover only with my mortgager.Also, on the Prudential policy there are no limits, which means that your mortgagor cannot say that the cover is too low.Its exteremely comprehensive, maybe not the cheapest on the market, but its a well known name, and I have had no p[roblems with them at all.