Thursday, 19 July 2012

Tesco fail at car insurance

Update as of 30th July 2012: Since writing this blog post I have received a response from Tesco in relation to my family's awful customer service experience.  I'd recommend taking the time to read the full post including Tesco's response (which I have included at the end of this post) before you pass your final judgement... 

Need car insurance?  I have a tip for you; think twice before going with Tesco.

It's not often I'll be so publicly critical of a company but I think it's warranted today.  They have left me and my family up the proverbial creek without a paddle.
According to Tesco, "every little helps".  While the sentiment of that motto might be true, it's just a shame that Tesco don't seem to live by it.  The way I'm feeling at the moment, I believe a better strapline would be "appear helpful to reel customers in, get them signed up to our services and then, at the slightest chance, screw them over any which way you can".  But that's obviously not as catchy or enticing to customers.

Sounds harsh? It probably is but that's what I think about them right now after their actions today. I'm not the first or only one to have had issues with Tesco.  A little while back, Emily at A Mummy Too had an ordeal with their online grocery service and wrote about why she'd never shop with Tesco again.  My gripe isn't about groceries but the company's car insurance business, although some of the problems Emily came up against are more or less the same for me such as lying and a 'can't do, couldn't care less' attitude (methinks some customer care training is called for).

The full story
My husband and I currently (or did until this afternoon) have our car insurance policy with Tesco.   We had been with them for 18 months until today.  We contacted them earlier this week about our policy because we have bought a new car which we are collecting tomorrow.  We wanted to update our details so that the new car would be insured as well as making sure both cars would be insured for a short period of time to allow us to drive the old car to the showroom, trade it in, pick up the new car and drive that one home.

The customer service representative went through all of the details with my husband.  Every single one.  Nothing was missed out.  At the end of the conversation my husband was told that we would need to pay an extra £80 or so (plus an admin fee) to cover the last six months of the policy and then the price of next year's policy would rise by around £140.  This didn't seem too bad but we couldn't upgrade our policy at this point as we were still waiting for the car's number plate to be registered.  So, we waited until this morning and called again.

This time around, my husband ran through all the details...again.  Every single detail...again.  At the end of the conversation he was told that we would need to pay £140 upfront (plus previously mentioned admin fee) to 'upgrade' the policy to cover our new car for the remaining six months of this year.  This is almost double to the original figure we were quoted for six months insurance cover.  My husband asked why this charge had increased.  He was told that we hadn't disclosed the fact that our car would have privacy glass in its rear windows in that first phone conversation earlier in the week.

That was lie number one.  My husband had told them about that.  He told her that.  She refuted that claim.  Apparently we're the liars then.  Not the sort of thing you want to be accusing of customers of being.

My husband kept his temper and asked if the price could be lowered at all.  She said that it could not.  He tried to negotiate but she was having none of it so that was that.

My husband began searching other car insurance company websites to find out how much it would cost to cancel our policy with Tesco and go with a different company.  It would only cost us £30 to call time on our Tesco car insurance policy and, depending on how much other companies charge, we figured it might save us money in the long-run to cancel with Tesco and take a completely new policy elsewhere.  Upon investigation, this certainly seemed to be the case.

We found a good quote with another company, much better than Tesco.  My husband didn't really want to move car insurance companies so he phoned Tesco one last time.  He explained that we had found a better quote and asked if they could move on the price at all.  Once again, he was told no.  So, my husband asked to cancel the existing policy.  He was told by the customer service representative that the cancellation would come into effect at the end of the day tonight.

That turned out to be lie number two.

My husband hung up but then realised we needed the policy to cover the car until lunchtime tomorrow so that we could actually drive to the car showroom and pick up the new car.  So, he phoned Tesco back to ask for this extension.  The man he spoke to informed him that the policy had already been cancelled and therefore it could not be extended.  My husband challenged this because that was not what he had originally been told.  The man on the other end of the phone was really unhelpful and just kept repeating "But, you've cancelled your policy.".  He was absolutely no help whatsoever, didn't offer any solutions, didn't even try to help in the slightest, didn't care that we, as a family, might now be stranded somewhere without the use of our car because the cancellation had taken effect sooner than we were told.

I know that we wanted to cancel the policy and that we were the ones who made the mistake of not arranging a cancellation time for tomorrow but I'm willing to acknowledge that mistake.  Despite our mistake, we were still given incorrect information and Tesco just didn't seem interested in acknowledging any sort of wrongdoing on their part or offering help to rectify the honest mistake we had made.  In fact, it was pretty clear on the other end of the phone, that we were being regarded as a nuisance.

But, the story doesn't end there.  My husband, sick and tired of dealing with what he deemed to be 'moronic idiots' ended his call to Tesco and got on with the task of organising a car insurance policy for the new car.  He organised - and paid for - a new policy elsewhere based on all correct details, including having 10 year's worth of no-claims (which we do have).  My husband then had to call Tesco back to arrange to be sent a certificate to confirm this, which he would have to then forward to the new insurance company.

Can you guess what happened next?

Tesco refused our request.  Well, they refused to send out a certificate to confirm we had 10 year's worth of no-claims and said they would only confirm nine year's worth of no-claims, despite us having more.  Their reasoning?  Their policy doesn't acknowledge individuals having more than nine year's worth of no-claims.

This is a clever ploy - it doesn't mean they're penalising us for being careful drivers, it means they're penalising us because we want to move insurers.  By not giving us what we are surely legally entitled to (I mean, we have 10 year's worth of no-claims for crying out loud), it means we won't get the same level of discount when we go elsewhere.  Grrrr!

So, now we're left with two problems:
  • Our old car is currently uninsured.  How easy will it be to insure it for one morning only in order to allow us to travel to collect our new car?  I have no idea but I'm pretty certain no insurance company is going to take us seriously when we call them about this tomorrow morning.  Or, we're now going to have to pay to get our car towed to the showroom. 
  • The policy for our new car has been taken out on the understanding that we have 10 year's worth of no-claims behind us but Tesco won't confirm that.  Therefore, will that make our new policy null and void?  I presume so.  It's going to involve yet more phone calls in the morning to get this sorted out. 
All of this is a headache we just don't need right now.  I'll end with a quote from my husband who has been dealing directly with these people.

"I've spent best part of the afternoon on the phone to these [EXPLETIVE DELETED].  Over the last 18 months they've had more than 500 quid off us for insurance, god knows how much spent on petrol, clothes and food.  And we get treated like this.


You hear that Tesco?  Disgraceful.

As well as writing this blog post, I've also been having a moan on twitter.  As yet, I haven't had any kind of response from Tesco.  I'll let you know if I do.

Update one - 20 July 2012: I have learnt that the nine-year cap on no-claims isn't limited to Tesco car insurance.  Therefore, I would like to extend that whinge to make it a general one about car insurance companies (except those who have a higher cap of course).  However, I continue to stand by my other complaints.

Update two - 20 July 2012: The company that we are buying our new car from has agreed to put our old car onto their company insurance to ensure that we can exchange cars.  When we did exchange cars, they also gave us a rather lovely food hamper!  Now that is a sign of good customer service. 

Update three - 20 July 2012: After spending most of the evening on Thursday 19 July and full morning today moaning about Tesco on twitter, I finally heard from their social media team at around lunchtime.  Interestingly, despite my numerous tweets about the awful customer service we received from their car insurance division, it wasn't until I tweeted Mumsnet with a link to this blog post and asked them to share it with their 28,000+ followers that Tesco got in touch (pure coincidence?  The cynical side of me says no).

Anyway, they asked me for some details (policy number and name) which I have given to them.  They have said they would ask their colleagues at Tesco Bank to investigate and get back to me.  I very much look forward to hearing what they have to say.

Update four - 25 July 2012: Tesco got back in touch via twitter to request more personal details namely, our policy number, the level of cover we had and my husband's name and date of birth.

Update five - 27 July 2012: I was finally able to send Tesco the information they requested. They replied to me later in the day to say that the matter is with their Tesco Bank colleagues and I should hear from them soon.

Update six - 30 July 2012: I received a letter in the post from Tesco in relation to my complaint.  Here is an abridged version of their response (to mainly stop this post from getting too long)...

"Dear Mrs Gibson,

Thank you for contacting our Social Media Team regarding the poor service Mr Gibson received when he contacted us regarding his car insurance policy.

[I have removed the paragraph outlining the complaint here because it is set out in the post above.]

Firstly, I sincerely apologise for the service Mr Gibson received and for any distress or inconvenience we may have caused him as a result.  When Mr Gibson contacted us on 16th July he spoke with one of our representative, Sarah.  Mr Gibson was asked whether the new vehicle had any modifications or changes to the cars standard specifications and Mr Gibson informed us of the tinted glass.  Sarah should have recorded this on the quotation but she failed to do so.  When Mr Gibson called back on 19th July to cancel his policy he spoke with Jack who incorrectly advised him of the cancellation timescales.  I certainly appreciate that such an error could have potentially put Mr Gibson at risk and I am sorry for this.  We aim to provide a high standard of customer service at all times and I am always saddened to learn that we have let one of our customers down.  I will ensure your experience is brought to the attention of the agents concerned so we can prevent this happening again.

When a policy has been cancelled we do not have the facility to reinstate cover.  However, in light of the incorrect information that Mr Gibson had been provided, I do believe that we could have done more to help and a possible solution would have been to set up a new policy for one day and for us to cover the costs incurred.  I am sorry that such a solution was not offered to you in your time of need and I apologise for the disappointment this caused.

[I have removed the paragraph outlining Tesco's policy of only recording a maximum amount of nine years No Claims Discount (NCD), because this is not exclusive to Tesco and therefore should not really be included as a complaint point of mine within this post]

Once again, please accept my sincere apologies for the service you received. I would like to assure you this matter has been brought to the attention of the appropriate people within our business and feedback has been given to those involved.  Lessons have been learned from your experience however, I am mindful that both you and Mr Gibson have been inconvienced and that Mr Gibson had to contact us a number of times.  In light of this I have enclosed two giftcards totalling £30 which I hope you will accept as a gesture of goodwill and as a genuine attempt to put matters right.

[I have removed the last two paragraphs which sets out what my husband or I should do if we wish to provide them with more information or, if we are not satisfied, how to contact the Financial Ombudsman.]

Thank you for bringing this to my attention and giving me the opportunity to put it right for you.

Yours Sincerely,

Claire Bissland
Customer Relations Officer"

Our reaction:
My husband is glad that Tesco has acknowledged they were in the wrong (the letter makes it clear that they must have listened back to the recorded telephone calls) and that he is not being called a liar anymore about the information that he gave to the company in the first instance.  He is also pleased that there has been a promise made that the company will use the experience to drive up standards and improve their customer service to stop things like this happening again.

As for me?  While I'm glad Tesco has tried to put things right, it's a real shame that things have to go this far.  Really, this matter should have been dealt with quickly and much earlier on.  They say lessons have been learnt and I truly hope that is true.  However, after other people's bad experiences with them, I must admit I'm not entirely convinced.  The proof, as they say, will be in the pudding.


  1. There  are a number of companies that will insure your car for 24 hours.  This is usually done for people that have just bought a new car from a show room and need to drive it from there to their home that day.  I think its through a bank as I used this service when I bought a new car 2 1/2 years ago.  It was also free as they're trying to get your business in the long run but you can cancel after you've used it at no cost.  I've got a feeling it was Aviva but I can't be sure.  Good luck with it anyway!

  2. Modalconfusion20 July 2012 at 09:39

    Hey up they are of course right the majority of insurance companies only acknowledge 9years no claims discount as for the motor. Get your garage to drop the motor at yours as they have "Trade Plates" to cover such happenings.

  3. Oh dear. When will Tesco learn to be polite and helpful???

  4. Hi and thanks for letting me know, this is really helpful. You're not the first to recommend Aviva so I may have to go and check them out

  5. Is it? I didn't realise that the 9-year cap on no-claims is used by other car insurance companies too. Then that point changes to a general whinge about car insurance companies (apart from Esure who I've been speaking to and who cap theirs at 15-years which is much better).

    As for the insurance on our 'old'car, the company that we're buying our new car from put it on their company insurance so that we could drive up to them and swap cars over. Now THAT is an example of good customer service. They even gave us a hamper as a thank you when we bought the new car!

  6. It seems to be the same old issues over and over. Their customer care team for their car insurance was no help whatsoever and didn't seem interested in even wanting to try to help. It was only by writing this blog post and moaning on twitter that I got a promise from the Tesco social media team that my complaint would be looked into. It really shouldn't have to get that far

  7. Glad you got it sorted. Sometimes you get what you pay for and sadly this looks like one of those times. 

  8. Good points you have including especially the third one ....Thanks for it...

  9. as far as car insurance goes full ncd is classed as nine years.. as far as pricing goes when you reach 5 years ncd it doesnt matter matter if you have 5 years or 25 years ncd the price wouldnt reduce any more. even if the company were to issue with a letter for 10 yrs ncd it would be of no use.

  10. The accusation of not disclosing a particular detail, no matter how it was delivered, is destructive. Destructive to the relationship you have with the company and to your confidence that they got you covered. I wouldn't wonder why you've gone searching for another insurance company. Tesco seemed to be a little nonchalant for an insurance company all throughout your needy situation. If your new insurer fails you again sometime in the future, it would be agreeable if you'd get recommendations first from your family and friends before choosing again. But I hope not! :)


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