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Mobile phone insurance – have you considered it?

Can there really be anyone left in the country without a mobile phone? Venture out onto any street, train, bar or restaurant and there’s a mobile clued to just most peoples’ ears. 25,000 mobile owners are relieved of their phones every month by thieves. Phones have got much smaller over the years making them much easier to lose or to drop. Phones have come down in price and they cost next to nothing to upgrade but if you have to buy a new on because yours has been stolen, damaged beyond repair or left in the back of a taxi, it could set you back anything up to £200. So if you’re treating yourself or a loved one to a mobile this Christmas consider insurance too.
Nigel Davies from Bias Insurance in Leicester explained to me that there are basically two sources of insurance if you want a mobile phone policy - that sold by the network/airtime suppliers like BT Cellnet or Vodaphone and that sold by the retailers. You can’t just phone up the company you’ve got your household insurance with and ask them for a mobile phone policy as most don’t do them. Check your existing contents policy though. Your mobile should be covered for theft from the house and for accidental damage. But it may not be covered if it’s stolen or damaged outside the home and 9 times out of 10 it’s while you’re out and about that the worst happens. You may also find that your phone isn’t covered if you use it for business calls. Norwich Union policy holders may have some cover under their contents insurance if the phone is used solely for private use or under their motor policy if there’s cover for personal effects while they’re in the vehicle but in common with most of the insurers they don’t offer an individual policy to cover mobile phones.
Nigel Davies says “If you do decide to take out a policy check the terms and conditions carefully and know exactly what’s covered and what isn’t. Policies have exceptions and exemptions. They mainly cover you against theft, accidental damage and breakdown but they vary and so do their prices. The big problem is that if you aren’t happy with the policy you’re being offered it’s hard to shop around are there are few specialist policies available. Still ask to compare the one offered by the shop to the one offered by the network supplier and check whether the policy is backed by an insurance company or is (as many of those offered by the retailers are) self-insured”. You might feel happier having an insurer behind the policy.
The last time I upgraded my phone the salesman was very insistent that I should have the insurance but at £17 a month I thought it was a bit steep. Prices vary. Vodaphone’s Five Star Plus is underwritten by Royal Sun Alliance and covers you for theft, theft from your car, accidental damage, malicious damage, loss, unauthorised calls made after the loss or theft up to £1,000, breakdown and you’re covered anywhere in the world. They will also lend you a phone while your is being repaired. All that costs £5.95 a month and you pay by direct debit along with your monthly line rental. Carphone Warehouse offers Lifeline Complete or Liftline Lite policies which cover much the same things and also includes water damage. They cost £2.06 a week and £1.71 a week respectively. The retailer also offer two policies for pay as you go phones. The Link Coverplan again covers most of the same areas from £1.99 a month for Pay as You Go mobiles to £4.99 a month for the others.
But read the small print. The kinds of things not covered are batteries, cables, and SIM cards. One policy says that you aren’t covered for damage or breakdown that is due to lightning, flood, wind or other severe weather conditions. If you’ve just topped up your pay as you go phone before disaster strikes you may not be covered for the money you’ve put in. Make sure that if you upgrade your phone your policy can be transferred to the new one. Most policies offer to replace your phone (if your claim is accepted) with another the same or very similar so don’t expect to get a model with a higher specification. Check how much of an excess you’ll have to pay.-With the Link Coverplan and Vodaphone’s Five Star Plus for example you have to pay the first £25.
When you do read the small print you discover that not everything the policies claim to cover is covered in all situations. For example although most policies say you’re covered for theft from your vehicle the small print of some says you aren’t covered if you left the vehicle unattended and there’s no evidence of forcible entry. There’s also the problem of your role in the theft or the loss of your phone. If you’ve been negligent then the insurer is likely not to pay out - you have to take all reasonable care of your phone. What’s reasonable? That usually depends whether you’re the client or the insurer but many an insurer has refused to pay out on that basis!
If your phone is stolen report it to the police and get crime reference number. You’ll need this when you talk to the insurer or shop. If there are calls made on your phone after the theft this will prove it wasn’t you who made them. As with any insurance claim companies take their time to check them out and pay out. If you depend on your phone get a policy which offers you another phone on immediate loan. Or talk to your phone company. They’re so keen to keep us all talking and running up bills that they may well simply send you a replacement phone for free.
So do you need a policy? You may decide you’ve got enough cover and there are so many deals around at the minute with so much competition between the phone companies that you could lose or damage your phone or have it stolen and get a new one for free. Of course you might get a good deal and then have to have a different number but you don’t have all the hassle of making claims. You could buy a policy and then find you’re not covered or your claim is refused. You pay your money and take your chance.
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