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Home > Opinion > Jeff Prestridge

Protection victory makes chauffeur owner people’s champion

Chris Hargreaves has become a people’s champion by taking on the might of the insurance industry.

By Jeff Prestridge | Published May 09, 2012 | Insurance | comments

Sometimes you encounter people in life who inspire you and put your own mundane, feeble achievements into perspective. Step forward Chris Hargreaves, 37-year-old proprietor of Prestige Chauffeurs in Bury, Greater Manchester.

Unless someone else extraordinary comes along, this unassuming man (somewhat dapper when dressed up in his chauffeur’s hat and suit and sitting behind the wheel of his wedding car, a 1960 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud MK2) will be my personal finance ‘person of the year’.

His achievement? He has stood up to the might of the insurance industry and as a result is prompting change that is likely to transform income protection into the essential protection benefit it should be. IP could go mainstream with a potential market of at least 20m people in Britain.

Chris’s encounter with the insurance industry started in earnest almost four years ago when he unexpectedly suffered rectal bleeding and was rushed into hospital. For the next six months he spent most of his time in hospital being treated for a rectal ulcer as well as for a pulmonary embolism.

It was a wretched experience with Chris being on a drip most of the time, undergoing a number of blood transfusions and worryingly, given his occupation and own business, suffering a series of fits and seizures.

The one thing that kept him going, other than the wonderful support of his wife Nicola, was the fact that he had been prudent and taken good advice when establishing and building his business.

He had taken out IP insurance (as well as private medical insurance), thereby in theory providing him with an all-important tax-free monthly benefit in his hour, days and weeks of need.

Unfortunately this is when things began to unwind because after his adviser began the process of making a claim on his Scottish Provident IP policy in September 2009, the insurer unexpectedly (and alarmingly) turned it down. It said he had been fit for purpose during his illness because he could actually have done the two things he said he was incapable of doing (so called work tasks) that he had based his claim on.

Chris was perplexed and angry. The insurance he had paid for every month had let him down. The IP insurance had failed to protect him. He felt cheated. He had fallen victim to the bête noire version of IP insurance, a policy written on a work tasks basis rather than one where benefit is paid as long as the policyholder is unable to carry out their own occupation. Any IP expert will tell you that the type of policy Chris had is not worth the paper it is written on.

Most people in Chris’s position would have challenged the insurer’s decision to decline the claim and then probably gone away vowing never to buy another insurance product again. But not remarkable, doughty Chris. He took his case to the Financial Ombudsman Service who initially sided with Scottish Provident. But back he came and early this year it ruled in his favour. He received £4800 including compensation of £100.

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