25 Plus Car and Home Insurance Awful Customer Service

I’m writing this post in an effort to do some kind of brand damage to 25Plus online. It’s the only thing I can think of doing or have the power to do considering insurance companies like 25Plus seem to be a law unto themselves lately.

I’ve been having hassle with a number of insurance companies of late including 123.ie and 25Plus both of which I have had to go through the financial services ombudsman’s office with for previous issues. I got nowhere with either complaint and both companies remained stubborn, arrogant and unapologetic throughout. It seems to me that because these companies know that by law people are required to have insurance (car at least) that they can do pretty much what they like, offering awful customer service along the way. I’m going to single out 25Plus here for a special mention though.

My wife has been with 25Plus for over 6 years now for car insurance and we recently added home insurance to the package to avail of the convenience and discount for having 2 policies with the same company. I’ll quickly outline the issue with them I went to the ombudsman with before I cover the most recent spat.

Last summer we bought a new car. We happened to buy it on a Sunday afternoon in Dublin. We’re from Leitrim so it was a quick hop up to buy the car and return to Leitrim straight away. I rang 25Plus to ensure cover for the journey back in the new car and there was no one available to take the call so I tried out their website, knowing they had an online portal where you could update policy details etc but internet wasn’t great and all we had with us were smart phones. Not really having any choice we drove the new car home presuming that maybe we’d be covered by our existing policy if anything happened because it wasn’t our fault we couldn’t amend the policy there and then.

Unlucky for us the car broke down half way home and we needed to get it towed, a facility that was supposed to be available for free on our 25Plus comprehensive policy but it turned out that because we hadn’t updated the car details, we weren’t covered! I explained all this to them in an official complaint I lodged but 25Plus just hid behind their small print and policies and the tow money remained out of my own wallet. The financial ombudsman’s office told me they couldn’t investigate because 25Plus are actually trading as a UK company.

Also, there was another issue recently where 25Plus, totally out of the blue for no apparent reason requested a “Gap in cover” letter for a 6 year old policy on an old car we no longer had. They said there was a 2 month period around 2010 where we had no insurance and that if the letter wasn’t sent back explaining why then our current 2016 policy on a different car, an active policy we’ve had for a number of years, would be affected! Obviously we struggled to remember what that reason was but my wife was sure it was dealt with from our end at least at the time and why it was only coming up now, we had no clue!?

Fast forward to January 2016 and a new Home insurance policy that we decided to take out with 25Plus. I signed up online, happy to get a better price than 123.ie who I didn’t want to stay with because of other issues with them being tits. 25Plus requested a signed direct debit mandate from me to enable the monthly payments, after I made a deposit payment. I thought this was odd as no other company seems to require this document these days. They all seem to be happy with an online signing? I asked their live chat guy if I could email it or use the online portal on the site and he said yes. I logged in and used the form below to send the mandate back to them after I printed it out and signed it:

2016-02-08_1255

The warning text in red is a brand new addition and wasn’t there when I submitted the direct debit mandate document or when I was arguing with them about it on live chat last week! You can all thank me for this after I brought it to their attention! So naturally, seeing the option in the list to upload a direct debit mandate that’s exactly what I done on the 12th Jan and thought no more about it.

So I was pretty surprised then to hear from 25Plus  on 2nd Feb, nearly 3 weeks later that the upload couldn’t be accepted and that a printed version would have to be posted back. And not only that, it would have to be posted back to a UK/Northern Ireland address before the 11th Feb or the policy would be cancelled at a cost to me of €50 + time on cover. So I argued with them on their live chat for a while, mentioning that if the option to upload the mandate was in the list then it was a reasonable assumption that that was one legitimate way to do it!? But no. They said that option was only put in the list because their was a postal strike one weekend and they forgot to remove it. I suggested giving me some time leeway on getting the printed form back to them via post because of this error on their part but they said no, that wouldn’t be fair on other customers!

I also requested a transcript of the live chat I had with them where I was told I could submit the mandate electronically but they said there would be a cost to do that! I also asked about the cost of cancelling the policy manually because I wasn’t happy with their attitude and they sent me a copy of their 23 page policy document expecting me to try find the cost info rather than just telling me straight. I eventually found the section on cancelations and it said the fee was €15 but they later said it would cost €50 + time insured so further confusion ensued.

Here’s a (for FREE) transcript of my live chat with them from last week if you want to make up your own mind:

Live Support
Julie Anne is typing . .
Julie Anne: Hello and welcome to online chat for 25plus.ie. How can we help you today?
10:15
Leon joined.
Leon: I’m getting cancellation notices int he post for documents not received. Pretty sure I uploaded tyhem on your portal though.
10:16
Leon: Direct debit mandate for Home insurance – *********
10:16
Leon: I’m in th eportal now and see no outstanding documents?
10:16
Julie Anne: For security purposes can you confirm your full address and date of birth please?
10:17
Leon: ******* Leitrim. 21/10/1975
10:18
Julie Anne: Can you also confirm the policy holder’s name and date of birth please?
10:19
Leon: Eimear Quinn. 18/02/1973
10:19
Julie Anne: Thank you
10:22
Julie Anne: We have received only a photograph of the direct debit mandate and we cannot accept this. We urgently require the original to be returned in the post.
10:23
Julie Anne: The policy is due to cancel 11/02/2016 if this is not received.
10:23
Leon: I was told it’s ok to upload it via the online portal?
10:24
Julie Anne: I am afraid we do require this to be returned in the post. I advise you send the mandate by swift post directly to our office at 66 Railway Road, Coleraine, Co Londonderry, BT52 1PG to ensure it reaches us within the time frame.
10:27
Leon: Can I cancel the policy at this stage and get a refund of my deposit?
10:27
Leon: Hello?
10:34
Julie Anne: If you wish to cancel the policy the policy holder can upload a hand-signed letter stating this however cancellation charges will apply Leon.
10:35
Leon: What are the cancelation charges?
10:35
Policy Wording
Julie Anne: I have sent a file containing your cancellation rights.
10:38
Julie Anne: I would advise that you return the mandate within the specified time frame as it is still possible to avoid cancellation Leon.
10:39
Leon: I’m not happy that I was told it could be done online and today is the first I heard it couldn’t with only a week to get the printed version to you. Why are all your staff not on the same page?
10:40
Leon: Also, why can;t you tell me the cancelation charge without me having to read your entire policy document to try find it?
10:41
Julie Anne: Who told you the document could be uploaded Leon? This is not the case I am afraid; we always require the original mandate in the post.
10:43
Leon: I can;t remember the name. A man. Also, there was a facility to do it online. Why would there be a facility to do it online when it’s not normally done that way?
10:43
Julie Anne: I am afraid there is nothing in the notes to suggest this was advised. There is a facility to upload documents as there are documents which we can accept this way however the direct debit mandate must always be returned by post Leon.
10:46
Leon: Well direct mandate is in your list of documents that can be uploaded. I’m looking at it right now?
10:48
Leon: “Signed direct debit mandate” it says.
10:48
Leon: Also. I uploaded it weeks ago. Why am I only hearing now that it wasn;t valid?
10:49
Julie Anne: We sent an email 13/01/2016 to advise we required the mandate to be posted Leon.
10:52
Leon: That email was sent to me the day I spoke to you on live chat and was told it could be uploaded online. Otherwise I would have posted it. Also, the direct debit mandate form was missing from the original documents you posted when I took out the policy. Thats why I contacted your live chat int he first place.
10:55
Leon: I think in light of your misleading me you should at least give me some extra time to post this. I’ll do it this week. If it doesn;t reach you in time or you can;t give me an extra week or so then I’m happy to move to another of the many home insurance companies.
10:56
Julie Anne: We both emailed and posted the mandate 12/01/2016 and advised that the mandate must be returned in the post. I am afraid we cannot offer an extension for this as we must give all customers the same time frame to provide documents. If the policy is cancelled our charges are €50 in addition to a charge for your time on risk.
10:58
Leon: It says €15 in your policy docuemnt?
10:59
Leon: I would like a copy of the live chat transcript from then please. Is that possible?
11:00
Leon: I would also like the contact details for an official complaint procedure.
11:00
Julie Anne: If you use the print screen option on your computer you will be able to save this chat if you wish Leon. If you do wish to make a formal complaint, our complaints email is complaints@25plus.ie
11:02
Leon: Not this chat. The previous one in which you told me the direct debit mandate could be uploaded online?
11:03
Julie Anne: You can contact the complaints department if you wish to request a copy of a previous chat transcript Leon. I see you were in live chat 12/01/2016 and an advisor had confirmed your details to have the mandate emailed to you. However, it was not advised that you could upload this document.
11:06
Leon: You didn’t address my point about the mandate being an upload option in your onlien portal?
11:08
Julie Anne: That option was added due to a recent postal strike however under normal circumstance we do require the mandate to be returned by post as previously advised Leon.
11:11
Leon: So you are not going to accept responsibility for that being available to me as an option regardless of the reason?
11:13
Julie Anne: As previously advised, we do require the mandate by post Leon. There is still time for the document to be provided in order to avoid cancellation Leon so I advise you return it to the Northern Ireland address which was previously given.
11:15
Leon: That’s a no then.
11:17
Leon: I will post the documents as quick as I can but if they don’t reach you in time I’ll be making an official complaint. I would like this transcript emailed to me at leonvquinn@gmail.com as the Print Screen option only saves part of it.
11:18
Julie Anne: I would advise that you send the mandate by swift post to ensure it does reach us within the specified time frame. If you wish to request a transcript of a live chat this can be done through the claims department. Please be aware there is a charge for these transcripts Leon.
11:20
Leon: Are you serious!?
11:20
Leon: Your company is totally insane.
11:21
Leon: You have obviously never heard of good customer service. I can’t afford to cancel policies with you at the minute but will do as soon as I can. I’m off to tell as many people as I can now about your lunacy.
11:22
Leon: Goodbye.
11:23
Julie Anne: If you do wish to keep a copy of this chat free of charge, you may scroll up and screen shot the relevant sections Leon.
11:23
Julie Anne: Can I help you with anything else today?
11:23

I can’t afford to cancel either policy with 25Plus at the min but when they are next up for renewal I’m out of there DAMN quick.

Leon

Christina in Red in 2015

A few days ago a friend on Facebook shared a fascinating collection of color photos taken in 1913 by Mervyn O’ Gorman of his daughter Christina using “Autochrome Lumière”, the main color photographic process of the time which involved using glass plates and dyed potato starch! The photos were taken near where I was born 62 years later in Dorset..

I stared at the photos for ages trying to take in the fact that they were taken so long ago, before the first world war, just after the Titanic sunk and about when my grandparents were born. Realising that the girl and photographer are probably long dead, these were brilliant, full color freeze frames of moments of their lives over 100 years ago.

What struck me most about the photos was that although they were taken 102 years ago, they looked as though they could have been taken yesterday, Particularly the one below!?:

Modern Teen!?

So naturally, me being me, the thing to do was Photoshop some modern items into one of the photos! I chose this one below because of the space in the sea to place an object in and also the direction of Christina’s gaze which suggested she was looking at something on the beach:

Original

I decided to place a luxury giant Cruise Ship on the sea and a Laptop on the beach. Obvious choices for me and the 21st century! What made the integration a little easier at least with the cruise ship was that, due to the photographic process involved which necessitated a large aperture and narrow depth of field, the background was mostly blurred so I just blurred the ship and added some noise to it, avoiding having to cut the edges out in great detail.

I added a Sony Vaio laptop in Christina’s eyeline and added a little less blur and noise to it as well as shadows underneath to help it sit in the stones better. I also added a slight Vignette and Sepia photo filter to make it look older. The result is below:

new

Here’s a screenshot of my Photoshop Layer setup:

Process

The Ultimate Online Payment Option?

I thought I was pretty smart with the payment options I offer clients on my Payment Form. Always offer choice they say. Make it easy for people to pay you they say! So I offered 4 methods:

  1. Credit Card (via Stripe),
  2. PayPal,
  3. Bank Transfer,
  4. Cheque.

Cash in a brown envelope isn’t on the list but obviously I’d take that too!

The latest option I added, Stripe is very cool. Finally being able to take a credit card payment with minimum hassle is awesome BUT. There’s hassle involved with all of the options above. Stripe credit card is probably the easiest method for my clients but I get stung a bit in fees from Stripe. I also get stung with fees from PayPal. Cheques are hassle for both sides and is the slowest method so that leaves bank transfer. When you chose Bank Transfer on my payment form above all it does is give you my bank details but clients then have to go setup a beneficiary in their online banking accounts before they can transfer.

Here’s what I’d like to see..

Electronic Funds Transfer

 

Some kind of automatic bank transfer method that combines the ease of payment that stripe credit cards offer the client, combined with the low fees of accepting bank transfers. My clients could fill out a form on my site, entering their bank details, name and payment amount and when they click submit my own bank withdraws the money from their account instantly then notifies me that I have funds.

Is that too much to ask!? We’re already doing it in an arse about tit, slow, inefficient and costly way right now. It just needs some tweaking.

Leon

Delete WordPress Posts Older then (X) Days in PHPMyAdmin

I stumbled across this as a possible fix for slow loading and resource hogging websites that have LOTS of content, especially posts numbered in the thousands. Something like the Google spider could use up your sites bandwidth and resources pretty quick if it has to try index thousands of old posts. Most sites might not need to keep older posts live because they will have become irrelevant and outdated over time.

Delete Posts

Login to your hosting control panel then click on the phpMyAdmin icon. Click the name of your sites database then “Export” on the top bar just to make a database backup first in case anything goes wrong. Choose “gzip backup” in advanced settings if your database is huge. Next click the “SQL” title on the top bar and paste the following in the box then click Go bottom right:

DELETE FROM `wp_posts`
WHERE `post_type` = 'post'
AND DATEDIFF(NOW(), `post_date`) > 180

What the above SQL command does is delete all blog posts in your site’s database with the posts type “Posts” as opposed to Pages and it deletes everything older than 180 days or 6 months. You can adjust this to suit yourself of course.

Once you’ve done this you might consider installing the Auto Prune Posts WordPress plugin to keep things tidy automatically in future.

Leon

Is Responsive Web Design Necessary!?

Responsive web design is everywhere. It’s become the one “must have” thing that nearly every one of my own new and existing clients asks for and I suspect by their language that they don’t even really know what it is! They’ve just heard it mentioned somewhere, perhaps on some social media course.

The first thing we should start with is a definition I suppose. My own definition as I understand it is this:

Responsive Web Design involves building a website layout or design that “responds” or more accurately “adapts” to whatever device it’s showing on.

Responsive web design exists as a supposed solution to the (quite considerable) problem of designing a layout that is consistent across a crazy number of different screen sizes and resolutions. Traditionally what was done was a different mobile friendly and more minimalist version of the site was shown in place of the original full design. This involved browser/device detection that wasn’t always accurate and you also needed to build two or more versions of your website at greater time and expense not just to build initially but also to maintain.

Responsiveness was a fairly commendable and logical way of sorting the issue requiring as it does just one version of a site that changes shape to suit the screen size or even orientation.

Here’s my first problem!

Why has it come to be known as “responsive” rather then “adaptive”!? To me the word “responsive” means a response to something that happens. An actual event that requires a response. A phone merely existing doesn’t really require a response!? “Adaptive” is a far better word. The website adapts to whatever obstacle it encounters.

Second problem.

Nothing stays the same. It’s getting pretty hard to get a good modern smart phone with a small screen size. “Phablets” (cross between phone and tablet) like the new iPhone 6 are pretty massive and very capable of showing a full static website layout in all its intended glory without moving stuff around.

Third problem.

I don’t like the liberties responsive design takes with your design. It completely rearranges your layout, resizes your images and other block elements, making some way louder or quieter that you intended. Menus are often completely collapsed into an icon you have to click on to navigate requiring an extra step for the user.

Fourth problem.

Responsive design is supposed to get over the problem of having to pinch in and out of your screen to zoom but when it rearranges your content into one long single column you are scrolling endlessly!? See my short video below and see which you think is more effort:

Conclusion

I’ll build a responsive site if you really want. It’s not extra hassle and it certainly wont cost you more. It’s probably easier for me actually! But please entertain the possibility that you may not need a responsive site. It’s just another option.

Leon

E-Day – Down with Cheques

I’d like to tell you a little story about a recent project I worked on and how payment for it was incredibly slow partly due to the inefficiency of cheques!

I rebuilt a website for a 3rd party client via a client of my own in February this year and have only just been paid. On the 20th August my client was asked to come to a meeting with the 3rd party guy so he could give him a cheque for the work. Here’s what happened next:

  1. My client receives the cheque and lodges it in his account manually,
  2. We wait a week for the cheque to clear,
  3. My Client writes a cheque from his account for me,
  4. Client travels to post cheque to me,
  5. Over a week later, still no sign of the cheque my end,
  6. Client cancels cheque,
  7. Client sends payment via PayPal,
  8. Money cleared and ready to spend within 2/3days.

Total waiting time of around 30 days from when the initial cheque was written to me being able to spend the money! And a total of around 7 months waiting for payment from when the work was complete!

Can anyone see the problem here!?

Today the 19th September 2014 is “E-day” when all government departments will cease sending and receiving cheques for payment in favor of electronic payments such as Debit Card and Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT). It is estimated that €1 billion is lost yearly in Ireland through cheque usage and it creates massive cashflow issues for small businesses like mine. I think all non-government business should follow suit and abandon cheques for digital payments. It’s easier and cheaper for all concerned.

More info on E-Day here – Jointheevolution.ie

Let me know if you’d like help setting up a Credit/Debit card payment system on your website.

Leon

How to Update Gravity Forms on Multiple sites with InfiniteWP

I use the FREE InfiniteWP to update WordPress core and plugins across about 40 of my own and client’s websites. It’s a real time saver. It works perfectly with plugins hosted in the WordPress repository but I use a few commercial plugins not hosted there and it can’t update these. Gravity Forms for example is one I use across nearly all my sites and that can’t be updated automatically with InfiniteWP. They have assured me that they are working on a fix to allow auto updating of Gravity Forms but for now here’s a workaround suggested by InfiniteWP:

Login to your InfiniteWP admin and click “Plugins & Themes” under “Manage” top left. Then select “Install” and pick some sites to install the new/updated plugin into.

You can choose to install a plugin from the following sources:

  • WordPress Repository
  • Your Computer
  • Remote URL

I chose My Computer because Gravity Forms is hosted in a private account with login so I just logged in, downloaded the latest version and used that file.

There are further options you can tick including: Activate plugin after install” and “Overwrite if plugins already exist” which you’ll probably want to select if you’re updating an existing plugin.

Once you upload the file you can hit “Install Plugin”.

infinitewp

Leon