The world of Car Insurance is very, very strange. I truly don’t understand how it all works.
My car insurance is due for renewal in October, so I recently received the renewal gubbins from my current insurer. They’ve put my insurance up by £60 for the year. Bear in mind, I’ve not even spoken to them all year, let alone made a claim, and I’ve now got another year’s no claims discount as well. And yet it’s gone up.
So I shopped around, doing the usual comparison website thing (Meerkats rather than opera singers) and got one that’s actually £120 cheaper than what I was being offered by the current insurer – and with slightly better cover.
Brilliant, I’ll sign up and do that. Job done. And this is where it all gets weird(er)
My new insurer is actually one I used a couple of years ago. So when I log in to their ‘self-service portal’ to see my new policy, all I can see is the details of the old one. Fuck sake. (It looks like the policy is actually tied to a combination of my username and password – so I can change password, and now view the new details instead – but I didn’t know that at the time)
So first things first, I call my current insurer to tell them I won’t be renewing with them. It’s the usual automatic phone gubbins, and gives the name of the insurance provider – let’s call them ABC Insurers, for the sake of argument. I give the correct information, go through, tell them I won’t be renewing, explain why, and it’s as easy as that.
Then I call the new insurers. Who are also using ABC Insurers. So I go through the correct information for the new insurance, get things sorted, get the documents emailed to me, and it’s as easy as that.
But it’s weird – I’ve used two different companies (well, two different front-ends) and given them the same information (obviously) but one faction is offering me a significantly better deal than both the one I’m on, and the renewal quote from the one I’m on. But they’re both the same company underneath!
How the fuck does that make sense? Offering the same person two completely different prices (and slightly different packages/benefits) Why not allow my current insurer to offer the same price as my new one? It’s all just a bit bizarre.
Having gone through the six years of the bankruptcy process (as I’ve written about many times in that period) today marks a year since that process completed. Time flies, and all that rot.
It’s the final real anniversary of any significance though – even though it came off my record a year ago, most of the banks work on a “Six years plus one” basis (fuck only knows why, but that’s their choice) when it comes to ‘full’ current accounts and the like.
So that’s where we are now – the full “six years plus one” is complete.
It shouldn’t affect things much – it would be nice to have a ‘full’ account with overdraft facility and so on , but only because that’s another thing that is good to have. I’ve done fine over the last seven years with no overdraft and never needing one, and I don’t see any reason why that would change now.
However, it does mean I’ll almost certainly move away from my current bank’s offering, purely because they were lying dicks about it all the way through the process. Once I’d gone through the first year where I was officially bankrupt, I was fine to have a basic current account. When I got it, I was totally honest with the bank, and they said I could try to apply for an upgrade to a ‘full’ current account on a regular basis (every six months or so) and see how I did.
It was only after three years that anyone mentioned that they wouldn’t give me an account until the “six years plus one” – ‘but it’s not that we have a policy, sir, it’s just that’s how it works, we won’t do it before then‘ – and so had basically lied and wasted my time for all those reviews. That did cost them money in the end – a complaint went all the way to the Financial Ombudsman, who found in my favour. (The rule in this case is keep a record of all paperwork and appointments, so you can show a history of wasted time, and stuff that you wouldn’t have done if they’d been honest and said to not bother for seven years!)
So yes, I’ll probably change banks for the current account – I’m not yet sure who to, but we’ll see what happens.
But the most important thing really is that now, seven years on, there’s nothing else keeping me back.
Back in October, based on a recommendation (and a liking of the style) I bought a new wallet from Rains. Not the cheapest of things, but also not world-shatteringly expensive, I liked the (slightly weird) sort-of-rubberised material it’s made from, and that it wasn’t leather.
Over the last three or four years I’ve swapped wallets a few times, trying out new things and designs, most of which haven’t really worked out for how I do things.So far though, the Rains one has suited me pretty well.
However, last week I realised that the rubber holding strap was breaking – along the line of the cut-in company name, which wasn’t really a surprise. But for a not-cheap wallet, I would still have expected it to last better than that. So I emailed Rains to say about this problem, and attached a photo of the problem. I could’ve lived with it – once it finally snaps I could cut the strap off completely, and it wouldn’t affect the actual functionality at all – but still, might as well let them know.
Within the day they’d come back to me, offering a replacement or refund – and either way, to not worry about returning the faulty one. I chose a replacement, which was sent out the same day, and arrived (from the Netherlands) a couple of days later.
I’ve again offered to return the faulty one (I figure they could at least see what’d gone wrong – but maybe it’s more of a common thing, I don’t know) but they’ve insisted on me keeping that as well, so fair enough.
All told though, I’ve been really impressed with Rains and how they’ve done things. There’ve been no questions or quibbles at all, just a simple smooth process that really stands out from most places. It shouldn’t stand out just for that (ideally this should be just how things are done) but it definitely does.
As part of the whole bankruptcy process (now well and truly complete, of course) I’ve been using a couple of free services to keep track of my credit score. It’s been useful to know what’s going on, and where things stand.
Part of the reports from both of those (and from Experian, whose ‘free’ service is an absolute dumpster fire, and absolutely refuses to allow me to view my own data) involves past addresses, and people with whom one has had a credit connection – things like a shared mortgage, or whatever.
Looking through the CreditKarma stuff in particular, I noticed that they still have a record of my old addresses going right back to Bracknell – bearing in mind, I moved there back in early 2005… It also still had me linked to Herself for the mortgage we had back on the Norfolk place (which must’ve been 2007/8, if not earlier)
So, I asked them about why this stuff was still on there – bearing in mind, credit stuff is supposed to stay on one’s record for six years and then go – and got a response back that was… less than encouraging. (Note, I’m going to edit some of this so it’s comprehensible without being comprehensive)
There are several reasons why TransUnion UK hold historic address information [including] something called asset reunification, which is when TransUnion UK helps clients trace the holders of lost or forgotten financial accounts, such as pensions or bank accounts. So, if you have an account associated with an old address that you don’t know about, financial institutions will be able to find you.
Another reason [we hold] old historic address information is to help organisations trace individuals who have moved without telling their creditors where their new home is (this is known as debt tracing).
For now, let me confirm that TransUnion UK holds address information indefinitely. However, they are reviewing their policy to see if a fixed upper limit can be set on how long they will keep address data for.
The “Indefinite holding” of that data is definitely a no-no. So far as I know, it’s still the case that if a company doesn’t get in touch with a debtor at all for six years, that debt is no longer viable, and is effectively written off. So historic data could be stored for (I’ll be charitable) seven years, and then get erased. I’d be OK (ish) with that, at least.
But this is information going back more than twice that time. I’ve now filed requests to lose all of that data – I’ve now been at this one address for longer than the six years usually required – and also to take away the connection to Herself. (I can’t imagine she’d be overly happy to still have that connection either) We’ll see what happens on those things.
I’m also going to refer this to the Information Commissioner, because I’m pretty sure they’ll be interested in anyone who claims to be storing personal data indefinitely…
When I moved here six-and-a-half years ago (and yes, that does still freak me out) I got a Cineworld Unlimited card, so I could see as many films as I wanted to. It’s a decent deal, less than £20 a month, so as long as you see more than one film per month, it’s paid for itself.
Because I’m a geek, I also started listing what I’d seen, with a separate sheet per year.
And it seems like I’m really quite consistent in how many films I see each year – not through any plan or schedule, it’s just the way it’s worked out.
The totals are
- 2012 – 26 films (although that’s in under six months, as I didn’t get the card ’til July/August)
- 2013 – 61 films
- 2014 – 64 films
- 2015 – 64 films
- 2016 – 54 films
- 2017 – 66 films
And so far this year I’m on… 62, with a couple of weeks to go.
Each year I think I’ll up my quality control a bit and see fewer films (when you’re not paying anything to see them, it’s remarkably easy to just say “Yeah, fuck it, I’ll give that a go”) And yet it all ends up being much of a muchness.
It’s odd, but I’m not going to complain. At least I know I’m getting value for money out of my Unlimited card. (It’s an outlay per year of £215 all told – so each film is costing me an average of £3.30, which is one fuck of a lot cheaper than the £10-ish for a single ticket!)
Last week, I upgraded my internet connection to an “Ultrafast” one – known by BT / Openreach as G.Fast. Apparently they’re slowing down the roll-out of this in favour of full FTTP (Fibre To The Premises) roll-out, but for now it’s the best speed I can get.
G.Fast offers a guaranteed 100Mbps download – and I’ll get compensation if it dips below that – which is amusingly ridiculous. When I moved here six-and-a-bit years ago, I was only just able to get ADSL and a 2Mbps connection. It was painfully slow, although it did enough for the necessary at the time. When FTTC (Fibre To The Cabinet) came here, I got it, and went from 2Mbps to 75 overnight. At that point I could do streaming TV and so on with no problem at all. And now I’ve doubled even that. Truly insane.
I wasn’t actually aware that this tech had been installed in my area, but BT sent me a promotional mail about it at the start of November, and I’d dragged my feet on it a bit. But then I got a “Black Friday” promotional letter about it as well, where I could also get it installed for free, for an extra £1 a month on what I pay already. Well OK then.
(As an aside, it’s the only “Black Friday” deal I bothered with at all – and only because it saved me money on a product I was actually interested in)
The engineer came round on Friday to do the installation – it needs some changes at the cabinet, and as it’s still new stuff, they’re doing it with engineers rather than self-install. This had a happy side-effect, in that he also appears to have finally fixed the line problem that’s been plaguing me for more years than I care to mention. (And has cost me the price of an engineer visit on one visit out of the five, because they worded the ‘fix’ badly, but that’s a dead issue now)
Ever since I moved in, the line has been dodgy on occasion, and it’s just got worse over time. The broadband connection has been fine in general – unless I have to make or receive a phone call. At that point the crackles on the line were enough to knock out the broadband connection. BT insisted this wasn’t possible, and that all the options I suggested were Just Wrong. (Because obviously I don’t work for them, so what could I possibly know?) In that time, I’ve had five master sockets, and swapped from ADSL to FTTC for broadband, so I knew it was nothing in the house. It was always either going to be a fault in the line (“Oh no, sir, that’s not possible, more people would be complaining if that were the case”) or in the cabinet itself (also apparently “impossible”)
Anyway, this time the engineer could hear the problem, and tested to find where the problem was. Surprise surprise, it was in the cabinet. So while he was redoing connections for my new broadband, he had a look round the cab, and the terminators on my line (I dunno) in the cab were “worryingly loose, I could just pull them off, didn’t even need pliers“. When he came back to the house, oooh look, what a surprise, no crackle on the line.
So, I’m now working with a 150Mbps download connection, and a lovely crackle-free phone line. All told, bit of a win.
This week, I’ve found myself actually shocked by the news stories about Pret a Manger and their labelling – and more relevantly, the whole story about the death of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, who suffered an allergic reaction to unlabelled sesame in a Pret sandwich.
The inquest into Natasha’s death was this week – she died two years ago – which is why it’s been in the news this week.
It turns out that the UK’s Food Regulations 2014 have an exception that allows freshly handmade, non pre-packaged food to not be individually labelled – which is the loophole that allowed Pret to get away with not labelling each sandwich individually. To me, that’s disgraceful. The loophole was (understandably) intended for small sandwich bars etc. to not be constrained by huge amounts of red tape. It’s not intended for large commercial efforts. (Although of course they’ve taken advantage of it)
Even worse, Natasha isn’t even the first person to have died as a result of this mis-labelling or lack of information.
All told though, two things in the whole sorry story left me utterly gobsmacked and despairing of people and corporations.
The first was how badly the staff on the flight handled Natasha’s allergic reaction. The doctor who attended to her wasn’t made aware of all the equipment on the plane, and also that “because Natasha went into cardiac arrest as the plane was landing, it would have been unsafe to retrieve the defibrillator from the back of the plane, where it was stored, while Natasha was being tended to at the front” (that quote is from the Guardian story) I mean really, for fuck’s sake, how robotic and uncaring do you have to be, to go “Nope, I’m not going to get that, we’ve got to be prepared for landing the plane”?
The second thing – and to me, the worst – is the timescales involved. Pret a Manger knew about this issue when Natasha died. Two years ago. Yet it’s only now, once the coroner has finished the inquest, that they say “We’ll look at changing our labels“. That’s two years where they’ve known about the problem, and have done nothing. I wonder what the reaction would/will be if someone else turns out to have died for the same reason within that time.
I assume there’s been some corporate legal bullshit going on that says that if they changed the labels before the inquest, they’d be acknowledging they were liable, or some such. Thing is, they were – and are – liable. If the labels had been in place, she wouldn’t have taken that sandwich, and wouldn’t have died. How on earth can that be anything other than being responsible for her death?