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Driver's insurance cancelled after insurer erroneously claims he was doing 164mph

Published 04 September 2017

'Black Box' insurance policies have become increasingly popular with drivers looking to cut costs in recent years, but one reader has got in touch to complain that his policy was cancelled on what he claims is erroneous data, leaving him without insurance and out of pocket.

The incident happened at 2pm on 28 August 2017 (Bank Holiday Monday) when Hastings Direct claimed its telematics system caught James Bralant travelling at 164mph in his 2011 Citroen DS3 on the M1. His variant of the DS3 has a top speed of just 112mph.

Despite appealing the claim, he was told that there is no dispute process. Hastings Direct notified him that his policy would be cancelled after seven days and would only allow him to submit a formal complaint - a process that takes four to eight weeks.

James was left footing a £255 bill - £210 for the telemetry and £45 early cancellation fee. He was also only one month from his renewal date and had previously earned a SmartMiles driver rating of 75 in almost a year of driving. He will now lose his second year of No Claims.


James' Octobox (the black box provider) innacurately shows his car not following the curve of the road

James said, "I'm bitterly disappointed. In the days leading up to the incident, I was singing the praises of having a box as a competent driver to reduce premiums. Clearly the technology is innacurrate and will need perfecting before having such a massive impact on those that choose to have a box. There's no way I'd get another box in the future but I don't resent all black box companies - Bell Insurance were excellent."

In a statement, Hastings Direct said: "We are sorry that Mr Bralant has felt the need to contact you regarding our SmartMiles product. With any SmartMiles policy cancellation, we thoroughly investigate the contributing factors and look to advise customers on their driving behaviour. Having revisited Mr Bralant’s case, we can confirm that the speeding event did take place. Our data shows Mr Bralant’s speed was recorded at 102mph in a 70mph zone; therefore Mr Bralant’s policy will be cancelled in line with the policy terms and conditions. Unfortunately Mr Bralant’s customer App incorrectly showed the km/h speed (for both the speed of the vehicle and speed limit) as mph and we are investigating this issue as a matter of priority. We apologise for any confusion this may have caused and will be contacting Mr Bralant to discuss this further."

The number of driver's insured through telematics policies is on the rise, with live policies increasing by nearly 25 per cent year on year - exceeding three quarters of a million in 2016.

When you raise your complaint with the insurer, ask them to provide all the data showing how they have concluded that you have breached the policy terms

HonestJohn.co.uk's insurance expert Tim Kelly said: "I have had this issue on more than one occasion.  This situation occurs due to the telematic boxes losing one of the three signals it requires to triangulate the position and speed of the vehicle causing it to broadcast inaccurate information back to the insurer.

It's becoming an increasing problem, as no common sense is being applied prior to the letter informing the client the policy has been cancelled due to automated systems being in place.

Insurance companies are aware of this, and should be reviewing this information prior to taking the decision to cancel a policy.

Insurers are bound by the Financial Service and Markets Act 2000 and must abide by the regulations.The area that is relevant is ICOBS (insurance conduct of business standards). The only time a claim can be repudiated or a policy cancelled is when there is evidence of "wilful misrepresentation of facts" or evidence of fraud. 

They are bound by the FCA regulations to "treat customers fairly" and this one area under "principles of business" whilst "carrying out due diligence" "acting with integrity" that they are often forgetting.

For a black box to show some one is speeding is out side the scope of this. We do not condone speeding, but an insurer cannot cancel a policy when you do.

An insurer can argue a breach of contract terms, but this also does not apply when the equipment that is providing their data fails to give accurate readings.

The first point of redress is to raise a complaint with the insurer, also phone the FOS to make them aware a complaint has been risen. They will then give a reference for future written correspondence, and will also contact the insurer who will then be aware that this complaint is under scrutiny. The insurer is much more likely to treat your fairly knowing their claims handling is going to be under review.

When you raise your complaint with the insurer, ask them to provide all the data showing how they have concluded that you have breached the policy terms, asking them to show which three satellites were connected at that time to show an accurate reading.

As they cannot in the situation being discussed, they should then revoke any actions taken and possibly compensate you for the distress caused."

In November 2016, Watchdog reported multiple instances of insurers cancelling black box policies for extreme speeding, including Hastings Direct. In fact, like James, many of the policy holders owned cars which couldn't even reach the speed they were claimed to have done.


oldroverboy.    on 6 September 2017

That is why I won't have one, but there have been numerous cases of meet and greet car drivers at airports abusing cars and being caught. (i won't use meet and greet either after one at Gatwick did his shopping in my car and forgot it...)

KidneybeanMan247    on 6 September 2017

Disgusting to see big corporates like Hastings Direct not only leave their customers out of pocket and with no insurance policy, but also accuse them of speeding whilst ruining their no-claims. Won't be going anywhere near a black box in the future.

Arminius JP    on 7 September 2017

So Hasting Direct is readily "...sorry that Mr Bralant has felt the need to contact you regarding our SmartMiles product" but expresses no regret about relying on doubtful and likely wrong technology to treat its own customer in a manner that appears and likely is less than fair, reasonable and proper. Not a company with which to do business perhaps?

retiredspeedmerchant    on 7 September 2017

Its about time car manufacturers took some responsibility and stopped producing cars capable of these speeds.

Craig_    on 7 September 2017

Read the article. His car was not capable of reaching the speed they were claiming he was doing.

nomdeplume    on 7 September 2017

Read the article. His car was not capable of reaching the speed they were claiming he was doing.

You might need to switch on your irony meter.

Edited by nomdeplume on 07/09/2017 at 16:56

paul jenkins    on 11 September 2017

and manufacturers of keyboards should be fitted with some kind of electronic limiter to help stop people like retiredspeedmerchant from typing nonsense

Edited by paul jenkins on 11/09/2017 at 16:52

DCmusic    on 7 September 2017

Can't comment on the black box technology as I don't trust it....my sat navigation is always loosing a signal and going mad. But I can say that Hastings where very poor when I used them many years ago and had a high speed non fault accident. They even told me I couldn't expect a high compensation for a knee injury when my knee was fine but my back was injured. That and their recommended repairer was so rubbish that the crash repair rusted out some years later and I had to scrap the car. Even the main dealer I took it to after the repair was horrified at the mess they made of the car and said it should have been written off. Sounds like they haven't changed.

Emuf    on 7 September 2017

I tried the aviva mobile app and it doesn't work where we live. I did some thirty mile trips and it thought I'd done less than half a mile. I got some good marks for not braking too harshly and anticipating road conditions. On the other hand, I got admonished for going round bends too fast and accelerating too fast? The roads are bendy out here but where it got the fast acceleration from I don't know!

   on 7 September 2017

The black box is not as reliable as it should be. Last year my son got daily warnings for bad driving when the car was parked outside the house (he was away on a training course).
He won't go near another policy which insists on the black box.

pintoflager    on 7 September 2017

Simple lessons here - never have a black box and boycott Hastings Direct ??

Captain-Cretin    on 7 September 2017

My sister had one of these fitted, it consistently showed her position well away from her actual position; meaning she was supposedly speeding in a 30MPH zone when she was actually doing 40MPH in a 40MPH zone.
(Two parallel road sections between Worcester and Malvern).

After a year of trouble she renewed with a non black box insurer.

I performed a test of the devices accuracy, I parked up on some flat ground, with no trees to obscure the satellite feed; the device consistently showed me 50m North of my actual location, even after a full shutdown/reset of the device.

999pez    on 7 September 2017

Hastings Direct seem to be a company where there are no actual people there to check the decisions made by a computer. They refused to renew my Father's policy because of his age even though he has never had a claim. I was told that age discrimination is illegal, but it doesn't seem to bother Hastings.

Edited by 999pez on 07/09/2017 at 22:59

   on 12 September 2017

As a retired 'Man from the Pru' remember? A lesson was had when the Vehicle and General insurance company in the 1960s went bankrupt because of cheap premiums.
I obtained a quote from Hastings last year and they were well below any other company.
Don't buy cheap cover, unless you want trouble.

RobNaylor55    on 13 September 2017

If you look at the track plot from the system, as shown in the article, it's not even following the curve of the road.

I've worked with Integrated Navigation Systems incorporating satellite technology since the late 1970s, and with GPS since 1985, and the track plot is a classic case of an INS losing lock on some or all of its Measurement Modelling inputs (ie satellite observations, speed sensor input, etc) and reverting to the Predictive Modelling algorithm to establish its position, speed and direction. The Predictive Modelling speed and direction input will have been influenced by the last (bad) input observations before the data was lost entirely, hence the high apparent speed in a straight line.

The Kalman filter in the system should be robust enough to detect when the threshold number of good sensor inputs falls below the specification required for a robust solution, or when accelerations exceed sensible parameters, and flag the data as unreliable. There are good data snooping options for detecting when one or more observations are incorrect and removing them from the position solution, and there are statistical methods for determining the reliability of the positions produced. They may not be displayed, but they should at least be logged and available for playback.

I'm surprised, considering how mature Kalman filter INS models are, at how poor some of the implementations used for vehicular traffic are today. The systems I work with are vastly more complex than the relatively simple implementations required for trucks and cars, yet very rarely give results as obviously erroneous as the illustration.

   on 13 September 2017

Lesson learned here void this company Hastings and boycott these black box Mickey mouse tuppence saving policies and pay a bit extra . It's a rip off insurance in UK always has been .

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