The Anton Savage Show Consumer Slot – Home Alarms & Insurance

I’ve recently started doing a weekly consumer slot on the Anton Savage Show on Today FM. The slot will generally be on Tuesdays, a little after 9:30 in the morning. A listener contacts the show with a problem, and I advise them of their rights, as well as answering shorter questions texted and tweeted in by listeners. I’ll be posting my notes for each show here on this blog. If you have an issue you’d like covered by the show, email a short note to consumer@todayfm.com.

Anton

The first query I received for the show was as follows:

Anton, just found out last night when my house alarm went off – due to a spider – that I did not receive a customary text alert on my mobile phone which I always do.

On ringing my alarm company (not Eircom) this morning mentioning this, I was told that Eircom have stopped supporting text alerts from house alarms at the end of June past. Why on earth would they do this ? Are people all over Ireland who have this system aware that they will not get an alert? Eircom have not notified me about this withdrawal of service and I am wondering if my house insurance will be an issue as a result.

This was my response.

And these are my notes:

The end of SMS notifications for alarms is a result of Eircom withdrawing their SMS via land line facility. Very few people ever used the facility, and they decided last year to withdraw it. Unfortunately, one of the few uses of the facility was the security industry. Some alarms are fitted with a dialler, which uses the land line to send you a message when the alarm goes off. I contacted Eircom, and they sent me this press release:

Fixed SMS Withdrawal
All landline customers currently have the ability to send SMS text messages using their home phone. From 30th June, this functionality will be withdrawn and it will not be possible to send or receive SMS text messages via eircom landlines after this date.

In theory, every eircom landline customer can used fixed SMS, although in reality the number of customers who actually use this service is a very small percentage of eircom’s total customer base.
In some cases, the service ‘Fixed SMS’ functionality may be used to support ancillary certain services such as monitored alarm services. Some alarm systems may use this technology to trigger notifications to the monitoring centre, and to customers, to inform them that their alarm has been activated.

We do not have insight into the number of people who use Fixed SMS for their monitored alarms, as this is not a service provided by eircom. Having had discussions with the security industry, it is felt that the number of people who do have Fixed SMS notifications for their alarm service is very low (i.e. none of the biggest alarm companies use this functionality). In order to find out if your property alarm is dependent on a Fixed SMS service, eircom recommends that you contact your monitored alarm provider.

You may be able to get your SMS alerts back, depending on who your alarm provider is. Some alarms come with a mobile dialler, which can send you SMS alerts without needing to use a land line. There are other services which link up with a smartphone app and send you a notification that way.

If you can find your contract with the alarm provider, maybe they’re required to provide you with SMS alerts. If so, you may be entitled to have them upgrade your alarm. If not, you should look at changing providers when the contract runs out.

It is unlikely that this will make a difference to your insurance, though you should check the fine print of your premium to make sure, as each policy is different.

Alarms can be vital to home insurance claims. Many insurance policies will offer discounted premiums based on having an alarm. Some will only require that you have “a working alarm”, others will require an alarm certified to standard EN50131, which means you need either a new alarm installed or the old one upgraded plus you will have to have it re-certified every year which requires an annual service and maintenance contract. In some cases this can cost more than the discount, and isn’t worth the trouble.

Remember also that if you avail of an insurance discount, you have to abide by its terms. If you don’t, and you get burgled, you may not be able to claim. So if you’re the sort of person who religiously switches on the alarm every time you go out, you might as well get some financial benefit. But many premiums require you to switch the alarm on every time you leave the property unattended, even if you are just popping out to the shops. So if you tend to forget sometimes, you might be safer to pay the full rate.

Other discounts available may inlcude

You have made no previous claims or have made no claims in the past three years
There is somebody over 50 living in the house
The residents of the house are non-smokers
A resident is usually in the house during the day
You have a smoke detector installed
You have security locks fitted on doors and windows
You have another insurance policy with the same company
Your house is in a neighbourhood watch area
The person applying is over 40, or in some cases over 50
The house is more than 10 years old.

As the list above indicates, contents insurance is just one kind of home insurance. Also available are Buildings insurance which covers you for damage to buildings, and liability insurance which covers you for injury to other people in or around your home. If you plan to get more than one kind of cover, you will usually find you get better value by getting a package from a single provider.

An important issue to consider in buying any kind of insurance is the “excess”. The excess is the amount that you have to pay yourself for any claim before your insurer pays the balance. Your insurer will reduce any claim settlement by the amount of the excess stated on your policy. You cannot claim for losses that are less than the excess.

The amount of the excess can depend on the insurer, but normally it is between €100 and €500 for standard claims on a home insurance policy. You can sometimes get a discount on your premium if you agree to a higher excess.

Claims

If need to make a claim, call your insurer or broker immediately. They often have a free emergency helpline. Give brief details of the claim and request a claim form. They may give you advice on what to do next. For example, if your home has been damaged, they may suggest you get some emergency repairs done. Always check that your insurer will cover the cost of any repairs.

For larger claims, such as a buildings claim on your home, you may want to hire an assessor. An assessor works on your behalf and will often negotiate with your insurance company to settle your claim. Assessors’ fees are not covered by your policy, so you will have to pay for this service yourself.

If your claim is refused, your insurance company or broker must write to you to explain the reasons why your claim was refused and give you details of how to appeal the decision.

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