Friday, July 30, 2010

Assurancetourix

After less than a week in the H-G, I’m losing track of what day it is.  Even with today’s balmy weather - le ciel est très bleu! - I’ve only been outdoors briefly, and that was just to do the laundry.

Today’s big chore is chasing down my motor vehicle insurance history. In the last twelve years, I’ve moved from Australia – USA – Australia – UK – Australia and have some years of motoring insurance history in each. As I moved from one to the next, all I had to show was evidence of insurance in the last country and I pretty much picked up where I left off. Now that I’m in France, out of the Anglosphere, things are done a little differently, and I have to show documentary evidence of every year of claim-free driving history or my premiums are going to be crippling. Just showing copies of my insurance certificates will not suffice: I will need certified statements from every insurer about my claim and bonus/discount status.

Last week I called my Australian insurer to get records for 2003-2005 and 2008-2010. In today’s mail I got records for the latter period only. Even if I call them tonight, it will be another 10 days before I get the full set of records – sadly they haven’t figured out how to send the one sheet of information in email (it’s just not possible! they cried).


Finland, 2007
Today I had to track back through my records to locate my vehicle registration number for my UK period 2005-2007. Then I search the web for an appropriate number in England to call to pitch my enquiry. Of course I get a highly automated telephone directory: select (1) for motor, (2) for home, (3) for pet, and (4) for travel insurance…

… several million digits of pi later …

… my gut churns as I hear an automated voice again request that I select (1) for motor, …

After a few human operators, I get what I want except the information can only be sent to my last UK address, from which I am blissfully fortunate to be able to request forwarding.
Cascade Mountains, 1998Following this I’ve squinted at some decade-old photos of my car parked in Seattle snows to retrieve the US rego number, and called through to my insurer there. Ten minutes later they’ve located my policy number and undertaken to email a letter of experience within the week.
I must say that even with the various delivery limitations of each company, all the people I’ve spoken to have been unfailingly helpful and polite. Now let’s hope that the work pays off locally!


With the car and its insurance done, the two remaining items I want to get done quickly are  bank and mobile phone accounts. If you’ve followed the blog since my last European adventures, you’ll know of the problems I encountered trying to use credit cards that haven’t been issued by a bank in the European Union. The more general issue is having a credit card issued by one country and a billing address in another. I just noticed that the iTunes store is one of those troglodyte services that can’t accept this. That is small concern compared to being out of petrol at a station after hours and finding that it won’t accept a non-EU card. That’s happened to me in France and, even less conveniently, on a rather cold island off the coast of Norway.


With a local bank account I’ll also be able to get a decent mobile phone plan, or at least do top-ups of a PAYG number over the phone/internet. If any of you have tried to call me on my most recent UK number, then we’re both out of luck as I can’t top up that account up without walking into a shop in the UK.

Cacofonix I guess some of you are wondering about the title of this post. In the English-language Asterix books, the untalented bard of the village is known as Cacofonix, which always seemed to me much more appropriate than the original French name Assurancetourix. Until today, I never quite understood the pun or meaning of that name, but Wikipedia explains it as “Assurance tous risques" meaning "comprehensive insurance”, literally “insurance – all risks”. So, still not exactly appropriate to the bard, but at least I know a bit more about the name of this poor representative of the Dunning-Kruger effect.

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