When meerkats make the most sense

“ARE you all right, Alex?” asks Jane. “You look a little peaky.” Frankly, no. I’ve had one of those conversations with insurancey-type people that makes you feel you’ve tumbled down a long, long tunnel into Wonderland and landed at the feet of a white rabbit. Nothing makes sense.

It started last year. Usually, I glance at the house insurance renewal notice and accept the offer. (Life’s too precious to waste it trying to save tuppence by spending hours on the phone or online.) In 2009, though, the new premium seemed a bit high, so I clicked onto the website featuring those cheeky little meerkats. It proved pretty painless and they popped up with a string of quotes.

How to choose between them, when they all offer slightly different terms and conditions . . . I finally plumped for one a good deal cheaper than our existing policy but also from a recognisable insurer. Oddly enough, it seemed to come via another broker – a middleman we’ll give the fictional name DarceQuote – but it was fine and, luckily, we haven’t needed to claim this past 11 months.

Two days ago, the renewal notice arrived from DarceQuote. Hmm, looks high, I thought, and spent 10 minutes throwing documents out of my “neat filing drawer” to find last year’s forms. A quick tap on the calculator confirmed the premium was up 28% – a rise stonking enough to fuel me with anger and propel me back to the meerkats. They provided a much more palatable offer, just �1 higher than last year’s, so I signed up. (This time it’s with Kwik Fit. Which sounds odd, but remember we’re in Through the Looking Glass territory, where you can get your electricity from British Gas.)

The final task was to ring DarceQuote and cancel the automatic renewal mechanism they so thoughtfully provide. “Can we ask why?” Well, because the premium has gone up 28%, you thought I wouldn’t twig, and the money would slip out of my bank account under cover of darkness.

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“You’re a valued customer and we don’t want to lose you. The policy covers anything worth up to �2,000 that you take out of the house. Do you ever do that?” You’re kidding. “Well, I’ll remove that clause and revise the quote . . . we can get it down to �201.19. How’s that?” Well, you didn’t give me that option last year. It’s dearer than the deal I’ve just accepted AND more expensive than a quote BY YOUR COMPANY that I’ve just seen on a market-comparison website. Explain that.

A pause. Then – “Why is a raven like a writing desk?” asked the Mad Hatter at the call centre, and hung up.

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