Painting by numptys

This must be one that deserves as much publicity as Direct Line’s claim to let named drivers build up their own no claims. Last summer we sold my son’s car as he was going off to University and London and changed the policy on my Zafira so that he can drive when he is at home. I chose Direct Line so that he could add to the one year of NCB that he had already earned in his own name. Understanding that this NCB would probably only have value with Direct Line, a good way for them to ‘hook’ future customers. The Zafira has been great (apart from a fuel pump burning out, but that is another scary story!) but at five years old and 150,000 miles plus it is getting on a bit so I decided to have a change. Not being sure of the longer term future of LPG as a motor fuel I decided to go for a Corsa CDTi ecoflex and have the high mileage economy from a small engined diesel. The delivery of the car is imminent so I called Direct Line to get a quote for the changes. I was shocked to find that they would not cover Nick on the insurance for the Corsa which I understood to be in a much lower insurance group than the Zafira. The reason being by their rules the car was modified and could therefore not be driven by anyone under 25 years old. Direct Line do not take a sensible view such as “Modifications are non-standard changes made to the car after manufacture, such as new spoilers, alloy wheels, exhaust pipes, changes to the engine capacity etc.” (quote from confused.com) they state quite categorically that anything from the option list that increases the vehicle above its basic price is classed as a modification. I was told this by two different Direct Line representatives and that because my chosen car had options it could not be insured with my son as a named driver. My business partner who also insures with a member of the RBS Group was incredulous and rang to speak to a third representative. He, initially flippantly, asked if this was the case with metallic paint to be told that if it was at extra cost it would be classed as a modification so no under 25s. He was also told that if options had not been declared at the time of taking out insurance then it would be classed as failure to disclose and the policy holder would be in breach of contract. I can see how this is relevant for the expensive leather interior or the silly 20 inch bling alloys, but what about the £15 option of a full size spare wheel instead of a space-saver on a Fiat Panda? Deciding to give Direct Line one more chance we rang the complaints number and spoke to Alan - could not give his second name because of Data Protection (really!). We said that we had done some research as to what other companies classed as modifications and gave the quote from confused.com. We said that we were concerned at the implications of what had been said about their modification and young driver policy and wanted to get the facts straight before contacting you. Alan was very clear about: anything from the factory fitted option list that increases price above the base price for that model is classed as a modification; this includes metallic paint; any modification means that under 25s cannot drive the vehicle, and yes, this does include metallic paint if it is at extra cost; any modification must be disclosed to the insurer, and yes, this does include metallic paint if this was at extra cost. On a personal level I feel that this is a ridiculous situation, but one that means because I have chosen a car in a desirable colour I will have to change insurance companies so that my son is able to drive when he is on vacation from University. We didn’t discuss the other options that I have chosen, for example the “sight and light” pack which surely reduces the likelihood of an accident claim. And, so much for the Direct Line no claims bonus he was building up. More seriously how many under 25s are currently driving cars on Direct Line policies where metallic paint or something else was chosen at cost from the options list. Add this to the number of policy holders who did not realise that they had to declare every option on their new car. Then for good measure add on all those people who bought a used car and were not even sure what options would have been at extra cost so should be declared.
Alan at Direct Line had no answer to the question of whether we would be talking about thousands, tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of their customers!

Asked on 23 May 2009 by

Answered by Honest John
In 931 words, you are saying that with Direct Line Insurance, having a car in metallic paint counts as a modification that excludes under 25s from being able to drive it. That would be daft if it wasn’t a sinister way of catching policyholders out on the disclosures clause.
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