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I had been a post office car insurance customer for a couple of years when I recently changed my car. I contacted the post office, changed the details and paid the extra premium as requested. After a couple of weeks (and after the cooling off period) I found a much cheaper policy and decided to swith. I understood that I would have to pay some sort of penalty but wasn't quite expecting the amount the post office charged me. When I phoned to cancel the policy I was given a list of various fees I would have to pay, I became so angy that it became a matter of principle that I cancelled the policy especially as the customer advisor kept asking me 'if my new policy was still cheaper?' every time another charge was added. When I had paid all the fees and the premiums I had already paid I was looking at several hundred pounds for a few weeks cover. As I said I accept I was in a contract and would have to pay an admin fee of some sort and probably up to the end of the month of the cover but it is beyond me how a supposedly reputable company such as the post office can get away charging exorbitant fees like this. I will never use them again.
My experience of Post Office Motor Insurance was sadly not a happy one.
I took advantage of a cash back offer for taking out a comprehensive Motor Insurance policy, within a short time the documents arrived, but then I found a better offer. As I was still well within the 14 day okay-to-change-your-mind 'cooling-off' period, I cancelled the policy and took one out with the alternative provider.
Somehow the Post Office, despite being very pleasant and understanding on the telephone, and having had the Certificate of Insurance documents returned to them as requested, somehow charged my debit card for the full amount anyway.
I thought this must simply be an error, however I was concerned as my bank account was not exactly flush at the time, I had after all just paid the OTHER insurance provider for their policy, and lots of other bills were coming out too, so I went straight to my bank and was fortunately able to reverse this, though they did warn me that if it happened again they might not be able to reverse it, and that I might be charged.
I asked how it was possible that a company could take money from my account in this way, when I had not authorised the transaction, surely this was a matter for the police? My bank manager informed me it was because I had used a Solo Debit Card, this gave the company free reign to request the payment (in fact any amount of their choosing) whenever they liked! So, by giving them my Debit Card details they could do what they liked and did not require authorisation in order to do it! Can you believe that? This a system which operates today, were you aware of it? I certainly wasn't until this happened.
I contacted the Post Office to ask why they had taken payment on what was clearly a cancelled policy. They apologised, saying it had been a mistake, very sorry. I grumbled about the inconvenience and the hassle and generally was able to convey that I was not a happy bunny, they were very apologetic, said it wouldn't happen again etc, and sounded quite sincere as they said it. 'Okay, all sorted then' I thought.
Alas no, because they did indeed make yet another attempt to take the payment from my bank account, this time my bank were prepared to reverse the payment, however they would have to charge me if it happened again.
I explained that the money should never have been taken, with a potted history of events leading up to that day. They basically said 'not our fault, if it goes over, you get charged, them's the rules', I'm sure you can imagine how annoyed and frustrated I was by this time. A company as supposedly reputable as the Post Office, helping themselves to my money as and when they liked, I could barely believe they were doing it.
So, I called the Post Office Car Insurance department AGAIN. They apologised AGAIN, and said it had been a mistake. I told them that the payment had been reversed by my bank, but that if it happened again I would be charged by my bank as taking the money at this stage would not only incur the charge, but also put my account overdrawn (which would of course incur even more charges!). I even told them that if the money was taken and these charges were placed on my account, I would pass those on to the Post Office as it was so clearly their fault. I was assured in no uncertain terms that they would not try to take the money from my account again.
Yes you guessed right. They DID take the money out for a THIRD time, only this time I knew the bank would charge me for the honour and privilege of reversing the payment, so I first went to the Citizens Advice Bureau. The CAB took the matter up on my behalf and I had that payment reversed without charges. Phew!
On the suggestion of the bank (who said it was a really sure way to put an end to it) I cancelled my Direct Debit card rendering it useless to anyone wishing to use it to withdraw a payment from my account, including me, though it only took a few days for a new one to arrive, this one had a different number, thus preventing them from taking any more payments from my account .
The CAB are wonderful (yet completely undervalued in my view - come on, they're volunteers, and they make such an tremendous and positive impact on people's lives every day. Let's see more funding going their way!). The CAB also established that in fact when I had been speaking with the Post Office to request that they should not take a payment for the third time, the staff member must have known that the payment request was already winging it's way to my bank account, so by apologising, and telling me 'no we won't take it again', they would have been well aware that it in fact WAS being taken, only it was a Friday afternoon, and they couldn't be bothered to try to sort it out properly, so they thought they'd just fob me off, lying through their teeth, until I went away, in the hope that when I came back to complain, as I surely would, it might be one of their colleagues who would be left to deal with it instead. I almost wish I had the name of the individual so I could write a letter of complaint to the Post Office naming the staff member personally, however I didn't get it, and even if they'd given a name, one can never be absolutely sure it really is their name, after all, I've worked in offices, I've seen people do name-swapping as a harmless 'one-way-to-pass-the-time' prank, not so much 'angry customer' dodging, as a bit of fun. 'I'm Chris, John, Kate, Harry! I'm Spartacus'!
So here endeth my lesson in not only my experince of taking out a Post Office Motor Insurance policy, but also the security of using your Debit Card online!
What an absolute nightmare this became, when it should have been a very simple and straightforward transaction.