Opinion: What happened to 'the customer is always right'?

Helen MacDonald

I recently received a reminder from my home insurance company that my policy was nearing its expiry date, but I was pleasantly surprised when they offered me a renewal at just £3 more than last year’s premium.

I was tempted to go for it immediately, thus saving all the stress and confusion of comparisons.

But then I looked more closely, and realised that the home emergency package (included free last year) would now cost an extra £20, making the new premium £23 more than last year!

I’m so tired of the tricks (well I call them that, I suppose they would disagree) that insurance companies use to lead you along their seemingly smooth path, then deliver the killer blow (which they hope you won’t notice) just as you are about to sign up.

It’s only then they mention there’s an extra payment for this or that; or you suddenly discover that you must agree to a paperless account.

They promise that any questions will be answered by their ‘experts’ – only they often won’t – and so another quote bites the dust.

Or you’re interested in a company that claims it understand the needs of the ‘more mature’ customer, but you’re then given a quote which is about 50 per cent more costly than the average.

And, at the same time, my energy contract is running out, so I must go through the nightmare of comparison sites a second time to search for a company that doesn’t demand that I have a smart meter installed, which is becoming difficult to find.

I would have quite probably signed up again with my present provider, if it weren’t for the fact that, about a month ago, I discovered they’d been taking payments at the winter rate through the summer months and so owed me about £250.

Over six weeks later, despite phone calls and emails, I still haven’t been refunded.

However, strangely, their administration has been efficient enough to correct the monthly DD amount and take payment for August, even though they owe me a large sum.

I’ve now made a formal complaint, with the threat of taking it to the Ombudsman if it isn’t sorted quickly.

Meanwhile, I’ve bitten the bullet and opted to transfer to that company with tentacles, even though it’s more expensive, but at least it’s fixed for two years.

And thank goodness I did, as since writing the previous, my present energy company has ceased trading.

I’m wondering how long it will take to get my refund now, if ever.

Thank goodness I took heed of the warnings re price hikes from Martin Lewis (Money Saving Expert).

It appears to me that the well-known adage of ‘The Customer is Always Right’, has vanished. COVID hasn’t helped, as I assume that most customer service lines have been answered by people working at home, some of whom may not be as well supervised as they would be in an office.

Now it’s ‘The Company is Always Right’, and we will put in place any procedures we like that are tailored to our needs, often hidden in the (very) small print, whatever the cost to the customer.

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