When water companies offer their own free water pipe repair schemes why are customers being encouraged to buy water pipe insurance? A question being raised by Which?
Update: 18 April 2011
Further to our news yesterday on the need, or not, to buy water pipe insurance, we were contacted by Homeserve to provide their comment. Here’s their statement:
“We believe the Which? article to be hugely misleading.The facts would appear to present a different picture.
“Nearly 1 in 13 homeowners in Great Britain have suffered a water supply pipe emergency at some points and while most water companies may offer a one-off service, they are not obliged to do so, nor are they always in a position to respond quickly.
“Homeserve will have engineers in attendance within two hours in the event of an incident. Furthermore, it’s critical to understand that a third of claims pertain to problems with pipework under the home, the internal stop valve and the rising main – all elements which would not qualify for repair by the water companies.
“It’s also important that consumers get a clear understanding of what their Home Insurance will cover in such circumstances. Water supply pipe problems due to wear and tear is unlikely to be one of them; whereas HomeServe will protect homeowners against such risks, which is a significant difference when considering research shows that wear and tear accounts for 98% of claims.
“For clarity on where a homeowners responsibility sits, visit www.yourwatersupplypipe.com.”
MoneyHighStreet comments: “The question of whether or not you need to buy specific water pipe insurance is no doubt one which will be much debated. Those involved, including the water companies, third party companies such as HomeServe, home insurance providers, Which? and indeed personal finance websites like our own MoneyHighStreet, will all present their own views.
“Ultimately though we can only provide the information to help you, the consumer, to make your decision on the route you want to take – to buy water pipe insurance or not.
“The critcial point that needs to be made though is that as you buy this prduct, or any other product, you need to understand what it is you are buying, why you are buying it and of course how much it costs.
“As such, we welcome the move by Which? which has opened up the debate which will help ensure this clarity for consumers.”
According to Which? 10 of the UK’s 12 biggest water companies are actively marketing water supply pipe insurance and yet it is an insurance that may be unnecessary to buy. A very costly unnecessary insurance at that, costing consumers more than £100m per year.
Whilst water companies promote the expensive supply pipe insurance, they offer their own free pipe repair schemes which customers are automatically entitled to use. The result being that millions of people buy insurance that they don’t need and will never claim on.
It’s a costly third party insurance, and Which? found the majority of the big water companies are promoting a policy from Homeserve via direct mailings.
Even though some of the marketing material does reference the water companies’ free pipe repair schemes, their benefits are played down. With some of the firms using their own headed paper to promote the insurance, many customers feel there is extra, valid reason to buy it.
As well as their own free schemes, some home insurance may also cover water supply disruptions and yet this fact was conveniently excluded from the marketing material reviewed.
Which? found that 19 of the leading 25 home insurers, including AA, Legal & General and RIAS, will cover burst supply pipe claims to varying degrees.
To stand a chance of being a valid home insurance claim though consumers need to be aware that many insurers specify they must be contact them before any repairs are made – and not first call a plumber in case of a leak.
Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, commented: “It’s totally unacceptable that water companies are pushing potentially unnecessary water supply pipe insurance from third-party private companies.
“Few companies highlight their own assistance schemes, and most fail to tell you that your home buildings insurance may overlap on the key benefits of cover.
“We’re calling on all water companies to use the same free pipe repair scheme so that it’s clear to consumers what they’re covered for.
“We also want to see the Government and Ofwat take action to stop water companies from confusing consumers by promoting third-party pipe insurance under their own banner.”
MoneyHighStreet comments: “Clearly as consumers struggle with their personal finance and seek to save money where they can, being persuaded to buy any insurance, or indeed any product or service, that is unnecessary is an unacceptable practice.
“One of our colleagues here at the office has bought this insurance but as a result of this research will be reconsidering whether they actually need it. We will let you know what happens.
“Meantime, as with any insurance, whether it be water pipe, home insurance or any other, do make sure you are clear about the policy you are buying, how much it costs and exactly what it covers you for.”