Although known mainly as a high street retailer, with 145 stores across the UK and Ireland, Debenhams has, like several other store companies, expanded into the insurance market.
The company’s products are featured on various websites (such as www.moneysupermarket.com, www.insureandgo.com and www.money.co.uk) as well as its own website where they appear in the Personal Finance section (finance.debenhams.com). Besides its own store cards and gift vouchers, insurance is available for cars, homes, travel, weddings and pets.
Not being an insurer by trade, Debenhams doesn’t really provide or even sell insurance, in common with other similar businesses. Rather, it acts as a reputable front and gives the convenience of buying insurance while browsing through fashion and beauty products. But if the product does the job and the price is right, the source is probably not a major concern.
Indeed, the website is no half-hearted effort – outdoing some of the stalwart insurers in design, layout and fingertip information. Things have been kept simple too by linking to the insurances section from the main website at www.debenhams.com (with www.debenhams.co.uk redirecting you to the same place). To insure, each section is marked clearly with dozens of pretty pictures to keep you on track e.g. a picture of house for home cover, a picture of a suitcase for holiday protection … you get the idea. Just in case this department store’s insuring products take off, we checked out what are likely to be the most common errors – www.debenhamsinsurance.com and the .co.uk version and both are owned by completely different companies so keep alert.
For home insurance, the company operates like a mini comparison site, searching a panel approved insurers to get the best deal. The insurance is actually arranged and administered by leading independent insurance broker Heath Lambert Ltd of London – never heard of them? Well, they’re pretty big, but always in the background.
Car insurance also results from a search of various specialist providers. The company is an introducer appointed representative of BDML Connect Ltd, registered in Portsmouth and part of the Capita Group plc, which arranges and administers the policies. Again, not a household name but one of the larger back room workers in this industry.
Pet insurance also goes through BDML Connect Ltd, with all policies underwritten by AXA Insurance UK plc. Yep, that’s right – you buy AXA cover through BDML through Debenhams. Cover is provided at Bronze, Silver and Gold levels, with premiums and levels of cover to suit.
Travel insurance is available in the usual single trip and annual forms, covers children free like most on family policies. Here, Debenhams acts as the appointed representative of Acumus Insurance Solutions Ltd, with the insurance administered by TPS (Insurance Admin Services) Ltd and arranged with UK Underwriting Ltd on behalf of Fortis Insurance Limited.
These same rather convoluted arrangements apply to the wedding insurance. Cover is available at Gold, Platinum, Diamond and Diamond Plus levels, proving that the big day is above the more common Bronze and Silver options – I mean, who is going to mark their wedding as being only Bronze or Silver when “Diamond Plus” is available? The levels depend on the size of the event and specific needs, with optional extras (such as marquee cover) also available. This does of course mean you can get most things for the wedding – the dress, other outfits, gifts, flowers, stationery PLUS insurance for the honeymoon travel and for the event itself all from the same source.
However, the dangers of selling insurance and anything else over the web was graphically illustrated in the period leading up to Christmas 2008 when the Debenhams’ site suffered under the weight of seasonal demand. After running slowly for a while it finally cracked and potential users were greeted with a ‘significant delays’ message. Hopefully, this isn’t something that happens too often when you’ve spent 10 minutes filling in your details online.