My experience yesterday of disability discrimination by RAC car insurance

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JLR2

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I’m no’ really sure where to start but I’ll get on with it anyway.

Over the last 24 hours I’ve been renewing my car insurance and given the renewal premium from my current insurer was daft in comparison with what I paid at my last renewal as you might expect I looked elsewhere.

I looked online for some quotes as it is becoming near impossible to find free phone numbers to get such quotes without having to use the internet. Eventually I ended up on the pages of the RAC and as I have (at the moment) breakdown cover membership with them which provides a 10% additional discount I completed their online quote system.

The system of the RAC requires that would be customers complete questions before allowing the enquiry to proceed to the next question, you have to have made a choice, ticked a box. One of these questions related to employment status. In answering the question I ticked the, ‘’Not in employment due to disability or illness’’  and carried on. Another of the questions asked for the would be customer to confirm the ‘month and year’ of their obtaining their full driving licence and it was this question that led to my spending 3+ hours on the phone in the course of which I bought, paid for and cancelled two insurance policies.

You see I phoned the RAC number to confirm my not being entirely sure of the month in which I passed my driving test would not invalidate any policy that I might take out with the RAC. In the course of this phone call the woman I spoke with confirmed the month of passing my test was not something that would invalidate any insurance policy and informed me that the £164 premium included the 10% discount as the RAC, having my details on their system automatically applied the discount. She then went on to ask me about my employment status and when I told her of my being unemployed due to my bring disabled she responded by telling me my premium would be £217+ and the voluntary excess would double to £200.

I, as you might expect, questioned this new increased premium and she explained that she understood it was due to my employment status. Well all hell broke loose as I virtually exploded at the RAC’s disability discrimination. In the course of one of the many phone calls I had with the RAC following this quotation I asked them to explain how I arrived at the online £164 quote having ticked the appropriate box, unemployed due to disability of illness, and she told me their system was showing them I had not ticked any boxes in that category. I then explained that I had contacted the information commissioners office with a view to obtaining copies of the information I had completed on the RAC web pages and during that call explained to the ICO that would be customers cannot progress any online quote unless they have completed in sequence the various stages of the quotation process.

In the meantime to all these calls with the RAC I contacted Churchill Insurance and accepted a policy with them. I was still very angry with RAC and returned to them to question why they sought to increase the premium offered to me by £52+?  and after a long call with me arguing my point the woman I was speaking with agreed to offer the original quote telling me she could do so as the company offering the policy had ‘not changed’. I said I would go to the company I had taken a policy out with and cancel it before returning to the RAC. So I did this but when I returned the man who took my call at first tried to sell me the original £217+ policy before eventually getting to the £164 policy, even after I had given him the details and message from his colleague telling him to look at the notes she had put on my quote details. But then he informed me that this policy was a, to be with the Co-op insurance and b, to have a £200 excess.

So after a long and protracted debate about things I eventually took a policy out with the RAC discovering at the payment end of things that they would still have to charge the £217 figure when taking payment but with a promise that the difference from the £164 would be refunded within a week.

There you go settled eh?  Nope by pure chance in my morning’s post there was a letter from SAGA inviting me to take an insurance quote from them. This invite came with a free phone number so I decided to give them a shout and the result of this call saw me calling the RAC to cancel the policy I had just taken out as I was going to accept the policy being offered by SAGA. Well given the SAGA policy included a courtesy car as standard, in the event my car required repairing following an accident, and the fact it cost only £105 in comparison to the £164/£200+ quotes and policies I had taken out it really wasn’t a hard choice to be making.

As is my habit I record my calls and I intend to speak with my MP about what the RAC Insurance company tried to do in respect of a disabled driver looking to obtain car insurance as required by law. My hope would be that he might find a way to bring this attempted disability discrimination by the RAC to a wider audience and prevent others having to go though the nightmare day I had yesterday.

The other matter, one that just rounded off a bad day, was finding out that the hospital in Berlin where my friend’s 95 year old father is being treated just now has told my friend to expect the worse in the next few days.
« Last Edit: 14 Jun 2018 08:57AM by JLR2 »

Sunny Clouds

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Just a thought (and in no way justifying any disability discrimination whatsoever), has this perhaps overlapped with a practice various insurance agencies and utility suppliers have of offering you a higher price and being prepared to haggle down to a lower one?  I assume (but don't know) that when you phone a lot of these companies their screen shows two prices - an initial offer and a reduced offer.

That being so, this may actually be down to a glitch in the computer programmes that unintentionally discriminates against disabled people by the way the algorithms work in relation to the two prices.

Having said that, there's the factor that you'll be way ahead of me on, which is the way that
disability and illness get lumped together for lots of purposes.  We're all familiar here with how they overlap and with all the permutations of illness with or without permanent disability, non-illness-related impairment with or without permanent disability.   Logically the categories that are actually needed for insurance don't refer to something like 'unemployed due to illness or disability' or whatever, but 'temporarily unable to work' and 'unable to work through disability'.  The 'temporarily unable to work' could then be categorised with 'currently unemployed' etc.  That being said, I suppose you could still get arguments over whether someone out of work short term is nevertheless unable to work due to disability if, for example, it's a relapsing-remitting condition or one that intermittently requires surgery etc.  Nevertheless, there should be some way of categorising it that's more appropriate if they sat down with people who've thought about these things for other purposes.

So my gut feeling here is that what it's about is someone with only hazy notions of the concepts and permutations of unemployment, illness and disability etc. creating the system or algorithms or whatever.

There may even be an industry-wide issue that someone with energy and time should be looking at, but how many people 'not in employment due to illness or disability' have the energy and time?
(I'm an obsessive problem-solver, so feel free to ignore any suggestions or solutions I offer, even if they sound terribly insistent.)

JLR2

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Sunny the RAC lied, it is a simple as that. As I was saying earlier in my op I had been offered online a premium of £164 with a £100 excess and had a I accepted that offer that is what I would have got. It was only when I sought to clarify my input of the date my gaining my driving licence through talking to someone on the phone that things changed. Again as I said earlier I could not have reached the point of being offered a premium had I not already completed the employment status question. An online quote enquiry requires the customer to indicate their employment status in order to progress the quote procedure, failure to answer that question stops the quote process. It is therefore something of a mystery to me as to why the staff at RAC Insurance (car)  insisted that there was 'no answer' no box ticked in the 'employment status' question. Put it this way I could not obtain a quote using the RAC's online system if I had left that question unanswered.

So I had answered the question, I had declared I was unemployed due to disability (or illness) and I had been offered a premium of £164. That the person I spoke with at RAC Car Insurance had tried to increase my would be premium by £52, on the basis of my work status, was discrimination on the grounds of my being disabled.

Sunny Clouds

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Not being funny, but how do you know there wasn't a glitch in the system so that when the people you spoke to said that it didn't show up on the system that you'd ticked that box, they were telling the truth?  As I see it, that's entirely possible.  I don't say that it is what happened, merely that it's possible.

That doesn't make what happened to you right, but it does suggest that it's possible that what you're up against could have a number of different explanations, and depending on which, different things need to be done about it.   More to the point, which explanation is right affects who is to blame for what happened, i.e. whether it's the call-handler, or management or whatever.

If the call-handler was wrong, she was wrong and I don't justify it.  I'm simply inclined when I read/hear about this sort of thing to suspect a systemic problem.

(I'm an obsessive problem-solver, so feel free to ignore any suggestions or solutions I offer, even if they sound terribly insistent.)

Sunny Clouds

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I just realised I forgot the most important thing -

 >bighugs< >bighugs< >bighugs< >bighugs<

One thing I really don't miss since I stopped driving is dealing with the car insurance.  Whether it's lies or cock-ups or system failures, it's a pain.

It's not long until my house insurance comes up for renewal.  Aargh!
(I'm an obsessive problem-solver, so feel free to ignore any suggestions or solutions I offer, even if they sound terribly insistent.)

JLR2

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Sorry for the delay in getting back Sunny, I was chatting with my MP's office about this issue.

Regarding there being a glitch I can confirm that was not the problem yesterday. When I spoke with the guy at the RAC he first tried to virtually railroad me into paying for the £217 policy only shutting up long enough to listen to me when I was a bit more strident/firm in my verbal with him. I then told him to look at the notes on their system regarding my quote. When at the end of his quotation detail explanation he made mention of the Co-op being the policy provider I again halted his spiel telling him the original and offered policy provider had not changed according to his own colleague. It was his own colleague who having been unable to explain how I could possibly have obtained the online quote of £164 without having first completed the online process in its entirety, including the employment status question offered the original online premium of £164.

The RAC had tried it on and failed. I will look to have my MP look into what happened yesterday as I see it as disability discrimination and something I want to see ended for the benefit of other disabled drivers seeking car insurance. 

Sunny Clouds

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If nothing else, whatever excuse the RAC comes up with, it may shake them into addressing the issue.
(I'm an obsessive problem-solver, so feel free to ignore any suggestions or solutions I offer, even if they sound terribly insistent.)

ATurtle

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According to the Gov.UK pages,
Quote
In order to be protected by the Act, a person must have an impairment that meets the Actís definition of disability, or be able to establish that any less favourable treatment or harassment is because of another personís disability or because of a perceived disability.

So, if you can prove that someone has been granted a lower quote, you can justifiably say that you are being discriminated against.  Unless that person happens to have only one leg and drives an automatic of less value than your car.
Tony.

"I choose not to place "DIS", in my ability." - Robert M. Hensel

JLR2

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AT, given the woman at the RAC whom I spoke with (and recorded) accepted and admitted my quote premium had being increased due to me having declared that I was unemployed due to disability, I doubt I will have difficulty in proving disability discrimination by the RAC. The only reason the woman agreed to reduce the premium to the online quote was because I could show it was not possible to progress the online quotation process without having first answered the employment situation questions.

The woman knew they had been found out and did what she could to avoid things going further. Unfortunately the guy I next spoke with at the RAC was a thick as two short planks halfwit who continued trying to squeeze as much money out of me as he could. It is this micky taking by the sales staff at RAC Car Insurance that has wound me up.

I don't know if many have listened to the auto-script at the start of calls to insurance companies when customers are looking to obtain a quote in regards to their purchasing insurance but one of the details I picked up on was when the message spoke of how the insurance company will carry out credit history searches, including their recent purchasing history, and base their quotations on what individual customer credit ratings tell would be insurers of a customer's ability to pay various levels of premium. In other words the insurance companies are using algorithms to aid their extracting the maximum assessed premium possible out of customers.
« Last Edit: 14 Jun 2018 04:50PM by JLR2 »

Sunny Clouds

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They may come to rue the day they tried to discriminate against someone like you that knows their stuff and is willing to stick up for their rights.  Go get 'em!
(I'm an obsessive problem-solver, so feel free to ignore any suggestions or solutions I offer, even if they sound terribly insistent.)

Fiz

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It might come down to whether you can prove what was said in the phone calls. It'll be evidence that makes a case.

Many financial products have an online lower price and an over the phone higher price. I've several times requested companies only charge me the online price if for some technical reason with their website I've been unable to continue with the purchase online and each time they've dropped the price to the online price. The most recent example was the prepaid funeral plan that I've recently purchased. The online price was £100 cheaper but there was a question online that didn't fit what I needed so I had to pone them to buy the product. They initially gave me the quote of £100 dearer than online but when I pointed out the only reason I wasn't buying online at the cheaper price was xyz they agreed to drop the price down £100 to match the online prices.

I don't see how the cost of selling a product by phone and using a real person can cost as much as a £100 unless the staff are earning extremely high salaries though!

Sunny Clouds

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The difference in cost isn't the cost of the individual call, it's the cost of the number of calls divided by the number of people who take out insurance that way.  E.g. if one in every ten callers takes out insurance on the basis of the phone calls, then then providing insurance via phone calls as opposed to only online is only cost-effective product-wise if the insurance price for that one caller in ten that takes out insurance that way covers the cost of dealing with all ten callers.

Having said that, given that some overheads are already there and they may be multitasking, then it may not be the full cost of a call centre, because they can put the staff in the same building or even the same open plan call centre as those dealing with calls for emergency help or claims or whatever.

Nevertheless, if the extra paid collectively by callers that take out insurance on the phone doesn't exceed the cost of providing that telephone quote service, including the calls from all those that don't take out the insurance, there is little if any point in providing insurance that way.

Note that that is showing up in the form of increasing numbers of suppliers of goods and services either providing online services only or providing significant discounts online, where the cost of providing the whole service is only or more cost effective that way.  That could be addressed by these insurers by providing an explicit discount.  Clearly at present, the cost/benefit analysis hasn't shown it necessary profit-wise.

It's certainly easier to do that where what you're doing is providing not something like quotes online or phone, but where you're providing a specific product to manage online or phone.  Banks do this with online, phone, and branch accounts.  They give them different product names and reflect the difference by offering higher interest rates on online accounts.
(I'm an obsessive problem-solver, so feel free to ignore any suggestions or solutions I offer, even if they sound terribly insistent.)

Sunny Clouds

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Incidentally, that perception  by some that the extra cost of getting something a particular way should only be the cost of providing it to them personally is a very big factor in why companies stop offering useful products and services.  What customers care about is public perception, what the company cares about is the best way to make money. 

In relation to insurance, they could simply increase their overall prices, but then those prices wouldn't be competitive, so it's try to get averagely higher prices on telephone call sales, or close the telephone sales arm. 
(I'm an obsessive problem-solver, so feel free to ignore any suggestions or solutions I offer, even if they sound terribly insistent.)

Fiz

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This is why I wonder if there's no evidence and proof of phone conversations a complaint might not be successful in any way because so many companies offer cheaper prices online. That might be their defence for asking for a higher price by phone. When online hasn't been possible for me I've always managed to haggle the call handler on the phone down to the online price but that's been totally at the company's discretion, whether or not to charge the higher phone price or allow a drop to the online price.

Sunny Clouds

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Yes, it'll come down to the specifics and proof.

It's annoying, though, when you feel sure that a particular situation is due to the all-too-prevalent disability discrimination, but can't prove it because there are other explanations.

Personally, I tend to expect disability discrimination in relation to this sort of thing to be mostly systemic, either with the discrimination but usually well hidden (i.e. lumping disabled people in with a different group not because they carry the same risk by belonging to that group but because they're perceived as higher risk and can be discriminated against that way), or with discrimination by failure to ensure that their system of calculating premiums doesn't discriminate.
(I'm an obsessive problem-solver, so feel free to ignore any suggestions or solutions I offer, even if they sound terribly insistent.)