t's been a while since I've had a rant about anything so mundane as...let's say...oh, I dunno...car insurance. So today I think I'll allow myself the little luxury of having a rant about...shall we say....*picking something out of the air as it whirls invisibly around my I-haven't-sorted-my-hair-out-yet-but-it's-my-day-off-so-fuck-it head*...car insurance.
Here in British Columbia (which is neither in Britain nor Columbia), insuring a vehicle is a bewilderingly complicated , time-consuming and (worst of all) expensive business. That is, unless you're insuring what they call a 'Collector' vehicle – usually a vintage car or truck which is mostly taken out on sunny days and shown off in the parking lots of A&W burger establishments – in which case, insurance barely costs you a smile and a certificate confirming that you are indeed a sad old bastard who wants to spend most of his time in the garage away from the wife. For most of us, insuring a vehicle is a little like going for a poo after eating the most spicy curry of your life: necessary but very uncomfortable, and occasionally downright painful.
By way of comparison, when I first arrived in Canada in 2002, the insurance for my first car ( a significantly distressed, long-in-the-tooth station wagon) cost me more than fifteen times the amount that I had been paying for a much smaller and significantly more valuable car in the UK only the week before. I was of course, as far as the Canadian system was concerned, a brand new driver with no history of blameless driving to help my premium rate, however it was still something of a shock to discover that buying mandatory insurance was giving me cause to seriously ponder the value of one of my kidneys on the black market.
Almost fifteen years later, the situation has improved as my driving history (let's leave aside those little misunderstandings about the speed limits on empty, dead straight roads, shall we?) has allowed me to build up a hefty discount. However, with a maximum discount I'm still paying around seven times what I was paying in the UK in 2002. The reasons for this have become self-evident during the time I have spent on the roads around this beautiful province.
There are two main problems. First and most importantly, BC drivers tend to be – let me see now; how shall I put this – unbelievably shite (yes, I think I nailed it). Having dealt with all kinds of bad driving as a copper in the UK, I have some insight into the subject, but local drivers tend to be really outstandingly incompetent. Obviously this issue (about which I've ranted more than once) tends to force up the price of insurance as my fellow citizens find it impossible – for any one of a thousand reasons - to maintain control of their steel and plastic chariots. One of the most common excuses put about by gormless people who find themselves standing alongside an upside-down car in a ditch, is that “The car lost control.”, which without any further comment from me should give you all the information you need about the general standard of driving in these here parts (*pause to spit in spittoon*).
The second problem – and this has become even more obvious during my time spent working within the law enforcement environment here – is that a great many people are insurance cheats. Either they don't bother insuring their vehicles at all and drive around in the not unreasonable hope that they will not be discovered, or they swap license plates with other vehicles owned by themselves or stolen from other vehicles, or they steal the validation stickers from license plates which then make sit appear that the vehicle is currently insured. I didn't realize until quite recently, but there are a great many people driving around out there without insurance. This makes me mad in a Yosemite Sam kind of way.
Yes, just like this. But with more guns.
It also makes what I discovered today all the more fucking infuriating.
My lovely wife and I, steeled for the experience, had gone to our usual insurance broker office to change something on the cover for our 'spare' vehicle, and to query something. The query was about the rate that I had been given for the old banger's (that's the car, NOT my lovely wife) insurance, which had seemed rather high. Imagine, then, our delight to be told that an additional premium had been charged to the vehicle's cover because – and I'll have to take a deep breath before proceeding with bullet points – of the following:
- My ex wife had caused an accident in my old car in 2007.
- Because she had permission to drive my car in 2007, I was deemed to be partially at fault.
- The surcharge for that crash (paid rather grumpily by me for three years) still exists, nine years later.
- Since my ex wife (from whom I was divorced six years ago) suddenly seems to no longer own her own car, that surcharge had been applied back to me for fuck's sake, as the owner of the old banger (which has no connection to my ex wife and never has had), when I first insured it this year.
- This had been done without telling me about it or explaining that it might ever happen.
So, our trustworthy public sector mandatory third party liability-providing insurance organization had quietly – actually I prefer the word 'sneakily' or even 'dishonestly' – applied a surcharge to my insurance because my ex-wife no longer owns a car. In other words, they wanted money from somebody/anybody, and since she wasn't paying them anything any longer, they thought that they'd surreptitiously get it from me! And what's worse: they fucking DID!
I need hardly explain why this is an unfair and underhand way to take someone's money (if I do need to explain further, perhaps we should no longer be friends) – money from someone who had the temerity to allow his (then) wife to drive the family car! It's bizarre, it's outrageous (how many other people are being gouged this way without even knowing about it?) and it's dishonest. Dishonest? Oh yes – how else would we have been able to have had this surcharge removed with a single visit to the broker today? One question about it, and the charge (and by the way: for what, exactly; what risk do I – or have I ever – represented?) is magically made to go away. That simply doesn't happen with legitimate charges. With a legitimate charge, I'd have had no recourse. Bastards!
I'm not sure what annoys me more – the underhand nature of this whole matter, or the knowledge that it underlines what an insignificant little runt I am when it comes to dealing with large corporations. I'm not even worthy of being told what they're doing to me until I come across the little scam by accident. Best invest in more Vaseline, eh?
It's depressing...*thinks* island, goats, chickens, pigs, crops...and a shotgun.