The best and worst things about the internet?

By | March 16, 2015
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Insurance – it’s not the most exciting topic (though it occurs to me that both Spike Milligan and Terry Pratchett wrote comedies about it – RIP both), but it raised a few questions after I mentioned using comparison sites last time.

After all, if you call it “saving money”, I suppose that sounds a good deal more exciting than “insurance”.

Some readers ask more about comparison websites…
I mentioned last time about using comparison sites – and a few people mentioned they’d read worrying articles in newspapers and so on about them.

The worry goes that comparison sites aren’t always impartial – because they’re on commission from the insurance company (or energy company or whatever it is you’re looking for).

What’s more the commission might not be the same from all different companies, so they have a motivation to push one supplier over another.

So, the argument goes, you shouldn’t trust them.

There’s some truth in it. Certainly they make money from commissions (taken out of the insurance companies’ shares, not added on, so you don’t pay any extra). I don’t blame them – otherwise they wouldn’t make any money and wouldn’t exist!

And I wouldn’t be surprised if the commissions vary.

And I’ve even known some of them run adverts whilst they give you the results of whatever you’ve searched for – which obviously promotes whoever pays them most.

But even so, I still use them. Why?

Well, the prices they give have to be true. And they’re set up so you don’t get a cheaper price by going direct to the insurer.

So as long as you check that the best price they quote you is better than what you’re currently paying or have been quoted by your current insurer, then you’re going to be better off.

True, it might not be the cheapest in the whole market. Though they do generally list hundreds of quotes – more than you’d be likely to get contacting the companies direct yourself. So it’s likely to be pretty close.

And it’s even possible that they know about a cheaper deal, but haven’t told you because they wouldn’t make much on it. (I don’t actually think this happens – too many people use more than one comparison site, so if one didn’t list the cheapest deals, no one would buy through them and they wouldn’t make any money. They’d rather make a small commission than none at all!)

But even if they didn’t include the very cheapest deal, as long as the cheapest they show you is less than you’re currently paying, it’s saved you money.

You could always ring a couple of companies direct as well. DirectLine, for example, aren’t listed on comparison sites, so you could ring them to see what they’ll quote. Generally when I’ve done this, it hasn’t been as good, unless I’m after something specialist (I found insurance on a classic car cheaper by going to a specialist – but for normal insurance I found it cheapest via a comparison site).

But I’d definitely recommend using a comparison site, even if you look elsewhere as well.

While I’m at it, don’t forget that not all insurance companies offer exactly the same things if you need to claim. It’s not always true that the most expensive offer the best, either. It’s worth checking before you automatically go with the cheapest, though!

Phew – it’s complicated… and not helped by some of the journalists who write about stuff like this without checking they understand it properly first. It’s hard enough to sift out the ones who have understood it and are pointing out legitimate worries from those who are a sandwich short of a picnic, let alone from those who are bright and well intentioned but just missed something.

Do you know someone who’d be good at customer service?
This isn’t at all to do with helping you with technology but in case you have a friend or relative who might be interested, I thought I’d mention that we’re currently looking for someone to help in our customer service team.

In fact we’re planning to take someone on as an apprentice. If you know someone who might be interested, they can read a little bit more here.

It’s based in Millom, Cumbria and we’re looking for someone who really understands that people working in customer service should be friendly and helpful.

Oh, and in case you’ve heard about apprentice rates, we’re not using this as a way to pay people less than you normally have to. Although the apprentice minimum rate is lower, we’ll pay the same as we would normally if we took on someone at this level. Not a fortune, but better than most apprenticeships, as far as I can tell.

Anyway, if you know someone who might be interested, would you pass the details on? Thanks.

The best and the worst things about the internet?
I was musing the other day on the internet and how it’s changed things for me. Things like being able to find cheaper insurance online, or just being able to check train times. In fact just a minute ago I was checking the weather forecast for Friday in Darlington – it took me a few seconds. That wouldn’t have been so easy before the internet!

And one of the best things is how easy it makes it to save money – in all sorts of ways (some that most people never even know exist).

But on the other hand, probably the worst thing about the internet is the worry about various internet nasties: viruses, scams and so on. And there are definitely more of these sorts of things around than there used to be.

I even wrote a little booklet about it, nearly ten years ago – and have added bits and pieces as things have changed. It’s longer and more crammed in now, but even so it’s got to the point where I can’t cover everything you ought to know about in it.

Well, shortly I’m going to be publishing two new books that you could think of as “the best and the worst things about the internet”. One is all about saving money on the internet – from a few pounds here and there to a hundred pounds or more in one go. The tips in it have definitely saved me a very tidy sum over the years!

And the other book is called “How to stay safe and sound online”. More about exactly what’s in that (and its rather cumbersome subtitle) later!

I’m not quite ready to make them available just yet, but with luck, I’ll let you know the “launch date” later this week, along with a bit more information about them.

Right, I’m off for a cup of tea. Who knows, there might even be biscuits…

7 thoughts on “The best and worst things about the internet?

  1. David Craig

    Whilst everything Tim says about comparison sites is true, however the one time I used one, the various companies that came up were aware that I had done so, and then I was being telephoned ( How they were able to get hold of my number remains a mystery !!!) by sales reps. Most inconvenient and annoying !!!
    Kind regards to all who read this
    David Craig

    1. Tim Post author

      That could be frustrating – I’ve never had that happen to me but definitely worth knowing about. I’m surprised they managed to get your phone number… the only way I can think of off the top of my head is if you’ve dealt with a particular insurer before and they had it on file from then, then when they say the same person at the same address was after a new type of insurance, they might put two and two together.
      The ones I’ve used without this happening are GoCompare and ComparetheMarket – there might well be others that don’t do it it, but at least those two haven’t when I’ve used them!

  2. Tony

    Agree with all Tim says about the Comparison Sites. Unfortunately many of my friends, who’ve been driving for many decades, have ‘lost’ hundreds, if not thousands of pounds, by staying with the same car insurers, since starting driving! Perhaps their family/friends could help, with searching the sites for a better deal! There’s no ‘rewards’ for staying ‘loyal,’
    to your old insurer, only higher prices! Tony

  3. Christopher Frey

    I have the same financial adviser and planner that my father and family use.In fact it is the local firm of solicitors where I grew up.I am sure there are swings and roundabouts on their advice but if something goes wrong with anything financial or insurance wise.One call and they fix it.And they really fix it as they represent so many people in that town that the companies they deal with can’t afford to upset them and therefore so many clients.

    I have another matter I would like to raise.Living in Sweden there are many of us being rung up by Indians claiming to be trouble shooters for Microsoft.They give bogus English names and when called on this admit it.I spent the first 15 years of my life in India and speak good Hinustani and Urdu so
    I have been able to catch them out.
    Somehow they get into our computers and manipulate them.Many elderly people who all speak good English are taken by such surprise that they part with large sums for a cleansing from all viruses.
    These people are liars and criminals who ring,sometimes as much as five times a week to annoy one.Microsoft is really embarrassed by them but they route their calls through so many countries that it is hard to pin them down.
    A bit of really disgusting abuse from me has stopped all calls but my neighbors have all been rung up.So,I published,in our local paper, what to say to them.Google will also tell you if you mention parents and siblings

    1. Tim Post author

      I’m afraid it’s a pretty common scam in the UK, too. I strongly suspect it’s not just one gang – it would be a fairly easy scam to do, so I think lots of groups are doing it. My advice is simply if you get a call claiming to be from Microsoft (or from an internet security company) saying there’s a problem with your PC, just put the phone down.
      The way is usually works is actually there’s nothing particular wrong with your PC – but they’ll talk you through how to set it up to let them help you and that will put something dodgy on it… then they’ll charge you to remove it.

  4. Mrs Mary Y Smith

    Re insurance – last year we moved our 2 car insurance to John Lewis. Their quote was better than the rate we had been paying. This year (because they automatically shop around for the best deals) our car insurance went down! (without us asking!).
    How good is that?

  5. vincent ingram

    in my opinion i do not think that you need to go to the trouble of having to set up a way to pay online. the direct phone line to you is simple, and is also nice to speak with you or a member of your team.
    best regards vincent.


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