Column: Roger's Soapbox

Perspective | In England, Insurance Is Above the Law

By: | July 30, 2018 • 3 min read
Roger Crombie is a United Kingdom-based columnist for Risk & Insurance®. He can be reached at riskletters@lrp.com.

I was quite old when I was sent to the government re-education center. This being England, not Stalin’s Russia or Mao’s China, there was a fair chance I’d emerge from detention alive. The force driving my punishment was not ideological dissidence — if it were, I’d have been shot years ago.

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This also not being Hitler’s Germany, my accuser was not a neighbor or a family member, but a robot. First law of robotics: You cannot argue with a mechanical device. When a robot categorizes you as criminal, that’s what you are. No due process required.

The robot in question was a speed camera. Ever vigilant, it photographed me driving at 39 miles an hour along a street where the limit was 30. The police documents explained that no excuse was possible, no circumstance mitigating. I didn’t fight the law, and the law won.

Britain operates a points system for drivers. Twelve points bring automatic license suspension. The three points my speeding would earn didn’t much faze me. I don’t own a car but rent one for special occasions. I do that rarely, so my chances of obtaining nine more points are tiny. Why, then, did I subject myself to four hours of accusation, condemnation and condescension?

It wasn’t fear of the law; it was fear of insurance. The greater the points, the greater the premium.

Why did I subject myself to four hours of accusation, condemnation and condescension? It wasn’t fear of the law; it was fear of insurance.

Re-education erases the potential three points as if nothing happened. One becomes, once again, in the eyes of the law, a person who has never committed a crime. It’s a valuable status in case one ever does want to commit a crime. Previous good behavior is currency when you give the swine downstairs exactly what they deserve.

Re-education means I could be named a Justice of the Peace or run for high office without fear of the skeleton in my closet. I will enjoy no such status, however, with the company that insures the next vehicle I rent. One of the questions asked when you rent a car, or renew insurance on your own vehicle, is, ‘Have you recently been caught speeding?’

Lying is not advised.

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Insurance is, therefore, above the law, and that ain’t right. If it’s good enough for the police and the state to treat me as blemish-free, why can’t insurance companies?

Wait, I hear something. Ah, it’s readers explaining that their business is based on experience, period.

It must be their experience that informs the decision to refuse to insure me when I reach 71 years of age. Not worth the risk, the companies say.

I’ll have to buy a car instead. If I buy a car at that age, every insurance company in Britain would be delighted to insure me — at an increased premium because of a crime police records show me not to have committed. They might just as well load the premium for my part in the Valentine’s Day Massacre. No, wait, forget I said that, and don’t go getting ideas.

Should I reach 71, the notion of a life sentence won’t mean very much. It will be time to start being very nice to me. Motor insurers, kindly take note. &

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at riskletters@lrp.com.