By Frances Leate
AN elderly couple who say they were bullied by their bank into changing their insurance policy were devastated to discover they were not covered after being burgled.
Terry and Doreen Barker, both in their 70s, say they felt ‘intimidated’ by their bank Unicaja after visiting them in May 2011.
After what Mr Barker describes as ‘hard sales tactics’ the couple were talked into cancelling their insurance policy with Linear Directa and signed up to a one year policy with their old insurers, Caser, owned by Unicaja.
They received a food mixer as part of the deal and signed up to an annual direct debit scheme for a total of €411.13 to insure their one bedroom villa and one bedroom flat in Velez-Malaga.
In February, while enjoying a long weekend in Torremolinos for Mr Barker’s 75th birthday, the couple was contacted by their security company to inform them they had been burgled.
Attempting to break in through the front door and then the back, the burglars smashed a hole in the patio window and stole Mrs Barker’s jewellery, money from their safe and a laptop computer.
The cost of the belongings taken and damaged caused to their home was estimated at about €8,000.
Mr Barker said: “When we returned we couldn’t believe what we were seeing, the whole place was like a bomb had hit it-absolute destruction everywhere.
“The wardrobe, which contained the safe, had been smashed to bits and the bedroom was like a bomb had hit it.”
While the couple struggled to come to terms with what had happened, worse was yet to come after Mr Barker called Caser to claim on his home contents insurance.
He said: “They told me the policy had been cancelled and when I contacted Unicaja they confirmed the horrifying news-for all this time and despite never receiving any communication from them- the direct debit had not been processed, the premiums had not been paid and therefore the policy was not in operation.
“We were beyond devastated, the burglary itself had left us traumatised and we slept in the apartment above for three months as we couldn’t face going into the bedroom.
“My wife even wanted to go back to England and all this was enough to come to terms with without finding out our bank had let us down too.”
He added: “We should never have given in to them.”
Despite having all the documents, signed by the bank, and never having less than €4,000 in the account at anytime, the policy was void.
The couple has since employed a solicitor who is now taking the case to the Ministry of Finance.