angrypolicyholders.com 2014: Chris Hargreaves looks back over 2014, and what 2015 may bring
2014, has been a year full of ups and downs. The year got off to a great start with a couple of cases I was helping with being completed and the policyholders finally receiving a payout.
Never a days go by where a challenge is thrown our way. I fell into being a consumer campaigner by accident thanks to Scottish Provident refusing my claim back in 2009. When I realized the policy I was sold was ‘useless’ I was determined nobody should have to go through what Nicola and I did. I like to believe that my parents brought my sister (also Nicola) and I up right. They taught me that life is not always fair, and wherever possible to try to turn a negative into a positive.
Some say I’m like a dog with a bone. Others, including my wife say I am a stubborn bastard. I like to believe that I am the sort of person who tries to do the right thing and stand up for whats right, which I do with all of the above. During my ‘work task‘ campaign it gave me the fundamental building blocks to take on other cases relating to the insurance industry and due to its success it also gave me credibility within the industry.
I know I had to be brought into line a few times by industry experts, but this was mainly due to frustration and wearing my heart on my sleeve. Also, I am the first to admit that the success of the ‘work task’ campaign was down to the fact of all the support I received from the industry, consumers, the press and media. This teamwork was crucial, and it taught me how to work with influential people, the press and media.
Looking forward, I wanted angrypolicyholders.com to look at taking on a more proactive role in the industry in 2014, and see how we could build on previous successes. Besides helping policyholders who had been letdown I was also there as a supportive role. It was not unusual to have policyholders at the end of their tether crying on the phone just wanting someone to listen. Even though I have yet to lose a case, I find the whole experience sometimes overwhelming and when policyholders tell you their relationships have broken down due to the stress and pressure you can’t help but feel helpless.
It is very frustrating that the industry inflicts so much damage to itself, undoing any good work they do. An insurer can refuse a claim and spend years fighting a policyholder only to made to payout in the end. It’s this gap between refusing a claim and it being paid out which I find so frustrating.
This reminds me of a case I helped with that finally resulted in a payout where mum and dad’s relationship broke down. They have a young daughter and I cannot imagine what she went through watching her parents split up, all because their insurer refused a valid claim. I bet if she was old enough to write to her parents insurer she would have wanted to ask: why were you so cruel to my mummy and daddy?
It is safe to say that I never know where the next case will take me, but I am always up for a challenge. At the beginning of the year I was approached by the taxi and private hire trade to use my insurance contacts to answer what appeared to be a simple question. The question set was to find out what are the insurance implications would be if a parent or child hired an unlicensed chauffeur, limousine or novelty vehicle for a school prom?
This ‘simple’ question led to the biggest investigation I have ever undertaken into the UK, chauffeur industry. I have to admit that I came close to throwing in the towel at points because I felt I was out of my depth as a consumer campaigner.
The investigation clearly needed a journalist with an investigative background, but nobody in the traditional press and media was interested. I was already getting calls and requests from industry insiders to carry out complex investigations into the financial and insurance industry. So, knowing that at some point I would have to bite the bullet in February this year I set myself up as a freelance investigative journalist.
Trying to juggle my day job, family commitments and now two roles it seemed like i was always chasing my tail. Firstly, my website was mysteriously hacked six months ago which also resulted in all my backups being destroyed.
Losing angrypolicyholders.com was heartbreaking, especially after all the work that had gone into the site over the past few years. To say I was gutted that all our articles went down the plughole, is an understatement. With cases piling up on my desk my health started to suffer. I felt under pressure not to let anyone down, at the same time as not wanting to fail.
Something had to give. I could not do everything, so I sacrificed the website and my Twitter profiles to concentrate full-time on my investigation and the refused claims cases. As I write I am helping a lady and her family who have what can only be described as the worst insurance case I have ever come across.
2014, has seen me dedicate more hours and resources than any other previous year in our short life. The year has seen my work with individuals, companies, government agencies on a scale I still struggle at times to comprehend. The cases I have been working on have yet to be made public but when they do they will show just how large and complex they are and why I have dropped off the radar for so long.
I have been honored that so many people have been so generous with their time to help me put these case together, including the people who came forward with information. If there is one thing I’ve learned is you have to think on your feet and adapt quickly to whatever is thrown at you.
As we approach Christmas, I have accepted yet another role to add to the growing list. My investigation into the UK, chauffeur, private hire and taxi industry opened a very large can of worms. I am proud to have started ‘Project Parker’, but it won’t be given justice under the Angry Policyholders umbrella. My investigation has been transferred to the specialist website Licensed Transport Uncovered (LTU) which is made up of individuals who are passionate about their trade.
The organisation has a phenomenal investigations unit, headed up by the Secret Squirrel who hates nothing more than unlicensed vehicles, drivers and operators. I was very honored to be approached by LTU to be their Head of Press, PR and Industry relations which I accepted. 2015, will see me juggling my roles and wearing various different hats, but I am looking forward to the challenges ahead.
2015, will be a defining moment for Angry Policyholder and my short career as an investigative journalist.
A very Merry Christmas to our readers, and here’s to a fantastic 2015.