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The Man From The Pru Can Go Take A Hike
Member Name: plipplop
Advantages: Simple documentation, good range of cover
Disadvantages: Lengthy claims process, over-priced premiums
My Prudential policy is a ďplain speakingĒ 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. Itís also worth noting how much the total value of cover is. The press often recounts stories of homeowners who simply didnít 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 donít 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 itís only if you really push things that youíll find that you can actually progress things. The technical department is generally more helpful, and more equipped to offer specialist information.
THE CLAIMS PROCESS
Iíve 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 wouldnít accept administrative delays as a reason for my claim not being settled. I didnít 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 couldnít 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, Iíll 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
Iíve 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 wasnít justified. I simply couldnít 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.
Summary: Plain speaking insurance with expensive premiums