Must I al­ways dis­close my er­ror?

The Daily Telegraph - Your Money - - FRONT PAGE -

Some years ago I de­cided to re­new my car in­sur­ance on­line with One Call In­sur­ance Ser­vices, a bro­ker. I thought I had suc­ceeded in rein­sur­ing my car at a very rea­son­able cost of £452.

I then went on hol­i­day, very pleased with my­self.

On my re­turn I re­ceived a let­ter stat­ing that I had given in­cor­rect in­for­ma­tion. Un­for­tu­nately I had ticked a box say­ing I had not been at fault in an accident, think­ing this ques­tion ap­plied to the third party.

I im­me­di­ately tele­phoned One Call In­sur­ance Ser­vices and tried to ex­plain that any­thing I had done wrong had been un­in­ten­tional, but I had no luck. I then re­ceived an­other let­ter void­ing the pol­icy and stat­ing: “You must dis­close this to any fu­ture in­surer.”

Sub­se­quently I tele­phoned One Call again. It of­fered to in­sure me with a dif­fer­ent in­surer at a vastly in­flated price. I pan­icked and ac­cepted. My daugh­ter-in­law in­stantly can­celled this in­sur­ance and found me cover else­where at a much more rea­son­able price.

Do I have to dis­close this in­for­ma­tion to any fu­ture in­surer for the rest of my life? This would mean this small er­ror will al­ways im­pede me from get­ting a more rea­son­able pre­mium.

Is there any way you can dis­en­tan­gle me from this sit­u­a­tion, please? TM, MID­DLE­SEX

In­ad­ver­tently you had mis­in­ter­preted a ques­tion on a com­par­i­son site about who had caused a mi­nor accident and ticked the wrong box so it ap­peared you had not been to blame.

In fact a third party had claimed £1,468 for re­pairs to their car when, although you had been at fault, no dam­age had been caused to yours. The in­surer with whom the pol­icy had been placed does not ac­cept cover for any driv­ers with fault or pend­ing claims oc­cur­ring within the past three years as part of its cri­te­ria. Had this been dis­closed, the first in­surer would never have quoted.

The let­ter you had from One Call ad­vised you that your pol­icy had been voided from in­cep­tion on the grounds of nondis­clo­sure of ma­te­rial facts. It added that you must dis­close this to any fu­ture in­surer.

The al­ter­na­tive cover One Call of­fered cost £2,251, which in­cluded ad­di­tional prod­ucts. Luck­ily you es­caped that one, but the dis­clo­sure re­quire­ment re­mained like an al­ba­tross around your neck and has ad­versely af­fected your premi­ums ever since.

Time moves on though and, as a re­sult of changes that have come in, the sys­tem has be­come more le­nient. Now, One Call ex­plains, if a mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tion such as this was made and it meant cover was pro­vided that oth­er­wise would not have been, your pol­icy might not as a stan­dard mea­sure have been ren­dered void.

One Call says it has no record of your let­ter set­ting out the facts and in­deed has not found the file. You have kept all the cor­re­spon­dence in­clud­ing a copy of the hand­writ­ten let­ter.

With my in­volve­ment, One Call is now re­vok­ing the void in­ci­dent. You no longer have to men­tion it when ap­ply­ing for in­sur­ance. You have just re­newed your cover with an­other in­surer and your pre­mium is lower than it would oth­er­wise have been.

This is an ex­am­ple of how mis­takes like this can spi­ral in their con­se­quences when they come up against rig­or­ous pro­ce­dures.

As in any exam, this is a salient les­son to al­ways read any ques­tion twice and think very care­fully how you an­swer it.

brought in to en­sure that those whose only in­come came from ben­e­fits, like me, can­not be charged any penal­ties. LM, BUCKS

You still have the Ba­sic Cur­rent Ac­count you started with in 2005, which does not al­low bor­row­ing.

No con­tact­less card is pro­vided, and no fees charge­able. That, there­fore, should keep you out of trouble.

In 2009 you also opened a San­tander Ev­ery­day Cur­rent Ac­count. San­tander said that, as a ges­ture of good­will, it has on nu­mer­ous oc­ca­sions (almost al­ways, it said) re­funded unar­ranged over­draft fees on your ac­count. So you have not, I un­der­stand, paid any­thing like the amount you re­fer to in your let­ter.

Re­cently you changed to a Choice cur­rent ac­count. You pay a £10 monthly fee and are kept, where pos­si­ble, out of an unar­ranged over­draft sit­u­a­tion. Pay­ments that would take the ac­count be­yond a zero bal­ance or over an au­tho­rised over­draft limit are stopped. This re­duces the chance of in­cur­ring unau­tho­rised over­draft fees.

You thought that sec­tion 187 of the Social Se­cu­rity Ad­min­is­tra­tion Act 1992 meant that San­tander was not able to debit charges from your ben­e­fits. This you also pre­sum­ably had in mind for the monthly fee.

How­ever San­tander coun­ters that, while the Act states that “ev­ery agree­ment to as­sign or charge such ben­e­fit shall be void”, the idea is to stop third par­ties from tak­ing ben­e­fit pay­ments as se­cu­rity for a debt by means of a charge over such pay­ments.

This is not in­tended to re­late to charges on ben­e­fit pay­ments and does not re­fer to pay­ments for ser­vices such as bank charges.

It seems you do not un­der­stand the sit­u­a­tion. For ex­am­ple, with re­gard to the ba­sic bank ac­count, you are now ask­ing for an over­draft fa­cil­ity of £500. This is not how the ac­count works.

From sub­se­quent cor­re­spon­dence I don’t think you will be let­ting this go, but I sus­pect San­tander is los­ing sym­pa­thy with you.

Debt ad­vice is avail­able from the Na­tional Debtline on 0808 808 4000 and at na­tion­aldebtline.org.uk. You have not pro­vided a phone num­ber, which has made your query all the more dif­fi­cult to tackle.

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