Sounds great doesn't it? I just renewed my home insurance with Direct Line (yes, I will name them, hello Google, I'm here!). The house insurance (more Google attracting) deal is quite good. It includes buildings and contents as you'd expect with a reasonable level of cover, I added accidental damage because I can never be sure what stupid things I'll do at home. I haven't yet put by foot through the ceiling as it says in the documents but I wouldn't be surprised if I did. I did put it through a ceramic cooker top a few years ago.
Then there's legal support like most policies these days, they cover personal possessions outside the home and they'll pay my salary while I'm on jury service. But what really caught my eye was the travel insurance. All for 250 quid a year. I know a little about travel insurance, I thought, I'll have a look at that.
Now, read the small print
Among the documents they send you is a 65-page carefully worded booklet that sets out all the wonderful things they do. 10 of those cover what really interests me at the moment, the free travel insurance. So I read on. After a few pages of definitions, we come to the bit where explain what they'll pay for and what they won't. If you have to cancel your journey, they'll pay out if you or someone with you is seriously ill or dies or if you're called for jury service and the court refuses to postpone it. So far so standard practice. They won't pay if you don't have the right visa, if the airline or your tour operator goes bust or if you don't enjoy the trip (that one must be there because someone's tried to claim).
They will pay in certain circumstances if you have problems with delayed or missed departures. That would have been relevant in the recent British Airways disputes. They'll pay if you have an accident, up to £10,000 if you lose a limb or your sight - but wait until you're 16 to do it because they'll only pay £1,500 if you're younger. I, however, am interested in pre-existing medical conditions. What about me?
Where's the catch?
There was a general catch all clause saying they won't pay out if the claimant has a pre-existing medical condition. However, the reality of these statements is often slightly more nuanced. So I rang Direct Line yesterday to put a bit of meat on those bones. I had a few questions to ask them of the type I asked Martin last week. I presumed that there would be some provision to pay and extra premium in order to cover me. After all, my wife is as fit as a fiddle, so she'd be covered, surely with a little good will and some cash changing hands, we'd be able to sort something out.
The call didn't last long. Not to put too fine a point on it, they weren't interested in me. Of course, if I had an accident that had nothing to do with my condition, say I broke my leg, that would be fine. Could I take the risk of something only happening that wasn't related to my condition though? They have no provision for people that don't fit the boxes. Now what's the point of that?
So who are these policies for?
I have to admit to being a little surprised by this. Surely Direct Line aren't saying they don't want my money. Let's face it, as part of RBS (for the moment at least), they could do with it. The truth is that they are in this market to make money quickly and simply. Their bean counters have come up with a formula to do this and if you don't fit in, the door's over there. I'd liken the process to the way supermarkets sell books and records. They're only interested in best sellers and cream the most profitable sales off the top because it's easy to do. They're not interested in my money.
The rest of us
The rest of us who don't fit into boxes are part of the long tail. The people that go to small independent shops, that want to find things that supermarkets don't stock, that go to specialists for advice and guidance rather than talk to badly-trained operators in call centres. We go to people that take the time, care about customer service (the one's that do it, not just provide training courses in it), and provide a customised product, not just a box-ticking exercise.
As for the jury service. I haven't plucked up the courage to ask them what the get out clauses are yet...