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.
Sad case, pity the owners did not notice the direct debit not being taken for such a long period. With online banking this can be done in seconds. First rule in Spain is to triple check everything, no matter how simple, and totally ignore all promises made by banks and other institutions. Spanish companies rarely communicate with their customers; there is no professionalism or service in this country, which has now gone totally to the dogs.
We have a 2 bedroom house and we pay an annual premium of 130€ that covers new build 100,000€ and contents 17,000€ I think the bank was taking them for a ride!!! For gods sake shop around.
Having problems with my insurance company aswell (caja rural insurance company). I had a broken pipe that caused extensive flood damage, but the company decided the damage was caused by moisture & condensation ! > am currently speaking to them but likely to issue a denuncia very soon as they simply dont listen & Ignor common sense. I have a mortgage with the bank and was told I had no option but to have the insurance with the banks own company, but now find that was also totally wrong, but have no idea if i can now do anything about the situation. I would like to change insurer, but if i do, then this current (& only) claim is liable to be just forgotten about !
Don’t let Spanish banks handle your finances they will screw it up and you will end up out of pocket. I only use my Spanish bank to receive my pension as soon as it lands I take it all out and make all my payments manually, bit more work for me but at least my money doesn’t disappear into a black hole and I have a receipt for all payments.
such a sad story, but comes as no surprise with unicaja, they are totally incompetent and there staff are rude and very unhelpful, i paid €16.000 in insurance policies with unicaja / caser over a 3 year period, and when i needed to claim for flood damage when we had the rains they told me it wasent covered, then a €4000 mortgage protection policy i had paid refused to pay as well when i could not work,on top of this they told me i had to have my autonomo up to date, so between making the claim and them telling me i was not covered was 3 months, more than €750 that i needent have paid. ontop of this When i brought a business here, i transferred money from uk to a Stirling holding account in unicaja, when i used this money, the transfer rate had changed leaving an extra €3000 in the Stirling account, only for the bank manager of unicaja to approach my finance guy who did all the paperwork for the business offering to split this remainder between them. before they shut the account down.
Simon you paid 16000€ over 3 years ….obviously a lot more money than sense, BIGGER FOOL YOU, if you would of kept that in your bank account you could of paid for the flood damage yourself, oh well live and learn my friend!!!
well i guess you could say i was a fool, and yes i do have more money than sense.. but that €16.000 did cover for 4 business premises and 3 property’s i own. so looking at it that way its not quiet so bad…
I have banked with Unicaja for many years. First in Torre del Mar,then in Algarrobo Costa & now in Velez Malaga. I have never had any problems. Speak as you find! The staff have always been friendly & helpful. Here in Velez I deal with a charming Spanish lady! Saludos Federico
We also deal with a charming Caja Rural lady for our house insurance. I don’t think she’s REALLY our friend once we leave the door…
Try Bankia, you can’t go wrong!!
I was with Linea Directa, they don’t pay out either, if you get burglard you have to have at least 85% of the total items stolen. Ever seen a burglar with a fleet of vans!!!!! No nor have I, but I have seen them with as many expensive/resaleable items as they can carry or put in one van, too bad the insurance didn’t pay out on that amount.