Guest Post – What does home insurance cover?

I often get requests from people and organisations seeking to make a guest post on my site. Unless it is meaningful and is not a straight product flog I will certainly share and embrace their articles. (You would be staggered how many requests I get from gambling sites).

This guest post is from Alex at Lendi.com.au.

What does home insurance cover?

 

The Wye River bushfires that took place in 2015 on Christmas Day destroyed over a hundred homes, with The Insurance Council of Australia at the time estimating total losses to be worth $38 million.

Property losses were significant, and while government grants were given out to those who were unable to return to their home, $1,300 would not have made much of a difference to the many homeowners that turned out to be underinsured.

According to data from RACV Home Insurance, 65% of the members who had their homes destroyed by the fires were underinsured, some by over $100,000. This is an alarming reminder of the importance of understanding your home insurance policy and what it does and doesn’t cover.

 

Home insurance and contents insurance

 

So, what does home insurance cover ? Well, there’s a reason it’s also referred to as building insurance. Most policies do not protect your personal belongings, but rather cover the cost of repairing or rebuilding the actual building structure itself, including any outer buildings, garages, and permanent features within the home, such as light or a built-in wardrobe.

It provides you with financial protection against external events that are out of your control, such as natural disasters including fire damage, hail, and wind, or man-made damages including vandalism, arson, and theft.

However, you should be aware that most policies do not cover particular events such as earthquakes and floods. If you live in an area where these events are more likely to occur, then you may need to take a closer look at your policy options.

If you want your personal belongings covered in case they are damaged, lost, or stolen, then you would need contents insurance. This covers personal possessions in your home such as electrical equipment, clothes, furniture, tools, and jewellery. Many homeowners bundle their home insurance policy with contents insurance into a combined policy so that way everything is covered.

As for home insurance policies, there are two different types to choose from:

Total replacement cover

Total replacement cover is a type of home insurance that, as the name suggests, covers the cost of rebuilding your property to the state it was in prior to being damaged. This is the best option if you want to reduce the risk of being underinsured.

However, only a few insurers currently offer total replacement policies, and you may find that it takes some time to receive the funds if you are to suffer a total loss, as a full assessment will need to be carried out by the insurer to calculate the cost of rebuilding the property.

Sum-insured cover

A sum-insured cover is the more common home insurance option and will only cover you up to a set amount to rebuild or repair your property. The set amount is selected by you and often referred to as ‘the sum insured.’

Since you can only receive up to a set amount, there is a higher risk that you will be underinsured, as most people do not have the expertise required to accurately work out how much it would cost to rebuild their home.

It should also be noted that limits, caps, exclusions, and other conditions vary between insurers, so when you are choosing a policy be sure to ask questions and carefully read the product disclosure statement. Take your time to shop around, so you find the best cover for your needs.

Homeowners that do not fully understand their insurance policies could end up finding themselves to be underinsured at the time disaster strikes. Be sure to do your research and read over the fine print. You don’t want to end up losing your home because of a natural disaster, only to find that you won’t be able to afford the repairs.

As well as taking the time to understand your insurance cover, you should also make a point of regularly reviewing your policy, as over time life circumstances can change, along with your possessions and your home.

Think back over the last year before you blindly renew your policy. You would be surprised at how many homeowners forget to mention an expensive home renovation to their insurance providers. Failure to do so could leave you at risk of not being adequately covered, so it’s worth taking the time to review your policy on a regular basis.

 

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Thank you for sharing Alex.

I would support the position that with some no sum insured policies the time taken to finalise the claim in the event of a total loss can be much longer to agree than with a sum insured policy. I ended up working with around 12 such people following the Wye River fires being engaged around 12 months after the fires. Most disagreements were over the amount of reinstatement.  It is therefore important to use both LMI PolicyComparison.com and LMI ClaimsComparison.com to compare the features and benefits and also the claims service as part of your decision making process.

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Has ClaimsComparison.com failed?

August 2013 saw the launch of LMI ClaimsComparison.com which provides a star rating of insurers claims service across over 20 classes of general insurance. This led on to the Mansfield Awards for Claims Excellence which were launched last year. The Mansfield Awards being a joint venture not for profit initiative of LMI Group and InsuranceNEWS.

There were three reasons for the development of the free to use website:

  1. To move the emphasis away from the price of insurance which seemed to me to be the primary determinate for which policy to buy. No one remembers the price of insurance when a claim occurs. What matters is the coverage afforded by the policy, the financial strength of the underwriter, and the quality and fairness of the claims service;
  2. By measuring the claims service it was hoped that it would drive positive change in the market and at the same time reestablish faith in an industry built on the underlying principle of Utmost Good Faith; and
  3. Recognise and champion those Claims Departments that are doing the right thing.

Anyone can get a price for their insurance while LMI PolicyComparison has provided detailed comparisons of the features and benefits of general insurance policies since 2003.

With no simple way for a customer to gauge the claims service of their provider until it may be too late, ie, at the time of a claim, LMI ClaimsComparison.com was developed.

As we approach our 5 year anniversary, it is timely to check what difference we have made. To do this I looked at the recent General Insurance Code of Practice Report.

I include charts below that reflect the following in a 5 year period, 2012-2013 to 2016-2017. I would explain this is retail claims which includes, Domestic Building & Contents, Private Motor, Personal Travel, Residential Strata, Caravan, Pet and Pleasure Craft Insurance.

The first chart (Chart 3) below reflects that there has been a 24.07% increase in the amount of claims lodged, over the period.

 

However sadly in my opinion, the next chart, (Chart 11) reflects that there has been a whopping 67.37% increase in the Retail declined claims.

There does seem to be a far too large and widening gap/ disparity between the two figures above. I cannot accept that many people are making claims that are not claims under traditional policy coverages. Either, the policies are stripping away cover or valid claims are not being met.

From the claims that come across my desk and that of my colleagues at LMI and LMI Legal, we are seeing an increase in the number of claims that are incorrectly being declined and/or where the Insured is being seriously short changed. If the client does not have an insurance broker and/or know of our services then they sadly often accept it and move on. This may appear good for insurers but it will pay harsh dividends for the industry in the long term.

While these figures greatly disturb me, it makes me more determined with both LMI ClaimsComparison, the Mansfield Awards for Claims Excellence and to double my efforts to inform the insuring public not to buy insurance on price alone.

I am also committed to work to have all loss assessors, loss adjusters, investigators, building consultants etc who are dealing face to face with clients and making decisions on whether a claim is a claim or not to be licenced and have at least basic training on general insurance and in particular the 6 underlying principles, starting with the need to act with good faith and also have a basic understanding of the coverage afforded by the contract of insurance they are making decisions under.

I end with the following quote from the court case from 2000 of Ontario Inc. v. Non-Marine Members of Lloyd’s London.

 

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Latest claims rating now available

As an addendum to the Mansfield Awards which were presented last week in Sydney (see here for article), I am pleased to advise that the latest claims ratings as determined by complaint data recorded by the Financial Ombudsmen Service, where appropriate, and insured feedback and our regular survey are now available at www.ClaimsComparison.com.

As always, I encourage people to consider the claims service when purchasing insurance and not relying on price alone.

Policy coverage and claims service and financial strength rating are all VERY important criteria when choosing the insurance program that is protecting your assets or those of your client. 

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Please have your say on claims – it counts towards the Mansfield Awards

The winners of The Mansfield Awards which recognises Claims Excellence will be announced on July 13. To have your say and rate the insurers you deal with on their claim service please go to http://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/1639869/Claims-Survey-current.

The Awards are a not for profit initiative of the LMI Group and InsuranceNEWS, after concerns within both organisations that there was no recognition in Australia for claims personnel.

Having been in the claims space for over 45 years, this did not sit well with me as it is the only real test of the insurance promise.

To learn more about the award please visit http://www.mansfieldawards.com.au/

In August 2013, LMI Group launched ClaimsComparison.com as a free service to brokers and the public showing the star rating of the claims services of Australian Insurers. The thought process behind this service was three fold.

1. Move the major criteria for buying insurance away from price to protection. ClaimsComparison.com was a natural adjunct to the already popular PolicyComparison.com which compares the various policies features and benefits.

2. To acknowledge those insurers and their claims staff that do the right thing by the customers.

3. To drive some positive change in claims at a time when more and more people complain about poor claims service including the media, government, insurance brokers and of course Insureds.

This current survey of claims is more important than ever with this round being used as the measure for success or otherwise for The Mansfields.

Therefore, please take a few minutes and complete the survey honestly and to the best of your ability.

Thank you in anticipation.

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Did anyone partake in this survey

My post yesterday on two topics the supposed statistics of dodgy claims and the rise of the direct market in business insurance certainly generated a lot of response with heaps of emails on both.

Last night I posted a follow up on the second issue, and this morning following further emails over night I thought I would add further comment on the first issue of the alleged number of dodgy claims.

While I have the highest regard for KPMG and if it were anyone else then British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli’s famous line wouuld have come to mind: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics

The key point from brokers, and my the claims team at LMI is that the vast majority of Insureds do not know what they do not know. As a result they often under claim their entitlement under their policy.

Add to this unqualified field claims handlers including some assessors and investigators who are not trained loss adjusters with little or no background in insurance who have not read the policy themselves and think their job is to cut the claim down no matter what and what they may claim is a dodgy item could in fact be a genuine claim.

In the vast majority of claims that are referred back to brokers and or LMI the amount is often put up to where it ought to be with no hint of fraud. It is just that good brokers and claims preparers are trained, have read the policy, often having input into the coverage, and understand the basics of insurance.

Not one person who wrote to me thought that the statistic quoted in this article could be anywhere near the true position. Like me, all felt that, most insureds under claimed seeking a fast resolution to their claim so that they have as little hassle as possible dealing with their insurer.

Yes there is the odd dishonest claimant and it is in everyone in the industry’s role to weed them out as we all pay for it but the last thing any of us need is for every insured to be treated as dodgy until proven innocent with a document request list and proof of ownership requirement that is impossible for the normal person to provide.

At the end of the day both sides need to show utmost good faith to the other for this industry to remain relevant and sustainable. What we cannot afford is the untrained to be embolden by this report and treat the insuring public worse than ever.

As part of my Make Insurance Great Again campaign, the Mansfield Awards will recognise the best claims departments within the insurance industry to recognize and thank them for delivering their organistations promise to be there for their clients at their hour of need and to help drive positive change within the insurance industry.

I will be writing more on this shortly but in the meantime, if you or anyone has great or poor service please ask them to complete the survey at www.claimscomparison.com.

 

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A disturbing response to my post today on buying business insurance direct – Get Ready for a Manning Rant!

In response to my earlier post today I received this email from a distressed broker.

Thanks yet again Allan for your insights.

Yes; it is extremely distressing to note the upsurge in the so-called ‘direct’ market influence.

I’m going to be very blunt now & tell you about an experience I’ve had during the last week.

The son of a very loyal commercial client of 30 years standing spoke to me recently about his need for Liability insurance.

He is a refrigeration & air conditioning supplier/installer/maintenance technician.

Long story short; the quotes I prepared were between $2,300 right thru to $13,500. (These are what I expected from experience. Maybe not the $13,500 though!)

Yes; of course there are many nuanced coverage differences that I went to great lengths explaining to him.

End result??? He went with XYZ [insurer name withheld] of all insurers, for $575 total premium!

Yes; you read this correctly.

Is the coverage adequate?? I very much doubt it; but there you go…price wins out.

I pray he has no issues moving forward.

Just wanted to share this with you.

Take care – Gary.


Note I have not named the insurer but it is one that has featured in my blogs several times for questionable behaviour in both Australia and New Zealand and one that has advised buyers that they can purchase their home policy in lieu of a strata policy. Enough said.

Despite my attention naturally being focused on LMI’s Emergency response to Cyclone Debbie and the many major claims we have been entrusted with already, I could not get this situation out of my mind. I am sure it is not an isolated case.

I wonder what the refrigeration & air conditioning supplier/installer/maintenance technician would think of a potential customer who elected to purchase a new or even second hand unit when he the expert new that it was a load of rubbish and would fail when it came to the crunch! Yet this same person does not question why a policy that he is relying on to protect his business, his income stream, his superannuation and perhaps the mortgage over his home can be 25% of the price and still be as good!

Has the client considered the basics such as goods in Care Custody and Control? Obviously not as the policy selected provides NO cover for most items under this heading, according to page 10 of the policy.

This client has NO cover as a tenant for damage caused to the landlords building, NO cover for any temporary site under his care custody or control, NO cover for employees property. With the brokers policy he would have full cover to the limit of liability. For vehicles nearby in his care custody and control, say a client drops of a van with a request to fit a refrigerated unit. NO cover. Under the broker policy, full cover to the limit of the policy.

With regards to customers’ goods he now has $25,000 where as with the broker policy he would have $250,000 as a minimum.

So what happens if this Insured has a claim. With the broker he has the advice of the broker and $25,000 cover for claims preparation costs from an expert. With his current policy he has no cover for claims preparation. He is completely on his own.

Of course: “it will never happen to Me!” is what so many people think. Now let me tell you of a true claim I handled a few years ago. The insured just happened to be a refrigeration mechanic. A fire broke out in his premises and he had a vehicle in for fitting, yes you guessed it a refrigeration unit. The fire started in the truck and the forensic investigator said the refrigeration mechanic was to blame. Trouble was he had a policy just like this with no cover for vehicles or goods in care custody and control. I learned about the case about 9 months after the incident and I proved the refrigeration mechanic was not to blame at all. I took my report into the lawyers acting for the truck insurer and they agreed to withdraw their demand. I thought it was a great result and rushed out to advise the client only to learn that after his marriage broke up due to stress caused by the fire and the demand which threatened to mean they would lose their family home, the Insured had hung himself the night before. This is not made up. It is a true story that upsets me to this day. With a good policy from day one, this really nice man would have had the protection of a meaningful insurance policy, the family would not have had all the stress and the tragedy and guilt of losing their husband and father.

This is why I push so hard for people not to buy insurance on price alone. You are a bloody idiot if you do. I cannot make it plainer.

Back to this “cheap” policy. I have only just got started. Let us take a claim for the costs of Cleaning Up, Nullifying Removing etc pollutants following a sudden accident release. Under the broker policy he has cover for the full limit of the policy, under the one he has selected NO cover.

There is no cover for loading and unloading. Broker policy full cover to the full limit of liability.

The broker policy provides a right to pay out the full limit of liability. The “cheap” policy does not.

If the Insured incurs their own legal defence costs the “cheap” policy has a maximum of half the limit of liability, the broker policy has the full limit.

The same goes for legal costs to represent the insured at a coronial inquest. That is half the limit for the “cheap” policy, full cover for the broker policy.

The broker policy covers the Insured’s wages attending a hearing or trial. The “cheap” policy does not.

I have not even got started yet on the exclusions such as hot works, such an important thing for this occupation. In fact the “cheap” policy has more exclusions than any other liability wording I have ever read.

Another big one that is even wider than the hot works exclusion is one that states:  Policy excludes any failure to comply with any Commonwealth State Territory or Local Government law or any safety requirement obligation or regulation imposed by any other relevant authority. This is a very broad exclusion and if it were not for a failure at some time in safety then you would be unlikely to need a liability policy. If the client takes safety procedures with the same cavalier approach as they do with their insurance, this story is going to have a very bad ending.  When it does it will be Brand Insurance that is painted as the villain.  By the way, this new exclusion only came in from January 1, 2017. I would be interested how much notice the insurer has given to renewing clients of this major change.

I do not want to bore the reader but I am sure you get the picture.

But before I go, I would add a couple more points. I am not sure what the limit of coverage is for the “cheap” policy. My guess it is half or even a third of the broker policy.

Nearly there readers! I question the role of the regulator and government in all of this. Why do we allow the public to purchase a policy that really offers scant protection. What of the customers of this business person who think that he has liability cover if something does go wrong. They too are going to be in for just as big a surprise and again Brand Insurance will suffer.

All this is why I have started a campaign to Make Insurance Great Again. This “cheap” policy is certainly NOT great. I would not recommend it to anyone.

I wonder if this new client of the “cheap” insurer would understand what I have just written here?. More importantly, I bet the call centre person who sold the policy wouldn’t.

Brokers out there, please note this “cheap” insurer is on LMI PolicyComparison.com and if you are confronted with this sort of situation, you can print off a comparison of the features and benefits in seconds showing the vast differences between the policy you recommend and theirs. This may help explain the huge difference in price that some new entrants offer to win new business.

I end with my often heard plea to the business owners and managers out there. Insurance is NOT about price. It is about getting the right ADVICE to provide good PROTECTION to your business and to you and your family. At the end of the day so much comes back to you as a personal risk that you are accepting when you get the wrong insurance.

There endeth tonight’s rant.

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Buying insurance on Price: Who would be that stupid to recommend that? Perhaps some who should know better!

Yesterday afternoon, Prof Allan Fels was complaining about the difference in price between home and contents insurance policies and advocating people shop around each year. While he is quoted as explaining there are differences between policies, the fact of the matter is that you typically get what you pay for, but it is not easy for the consumer to understand the complexities of the policies, nor the claims service until it is perhaps too late.

Insurance is one of those products that if you purchase the wrong one, it can have detrimental life changing effects. For many people, their home is their biggest single asset. They may have a mortgage over it. A single event can destroy the home and then what. Yes you saved a few hundred dollars but one policy covers you and the other does not and that apparent saving of say $500, just cost you the entire value of your home and contents.

Even if you get the claim paid by the same company, what is it worth to have one company pay it quickly with minimum fuss, allowing you your choice of repairer, showing great empathy and the other one drags it out and moves you from being a customer to a cost centre. Most would gladly pay 10 times the saving to have the first company look after their claim, but that is a simple decision after the claim. Before hand, too many focus on price as it will never happen to me.

I thought I would just have a quick look at any differences between the two most often quoted policies in the survey. Coles and GIO using LMI PolicyComparison.com.  There are two versions here to use. The top one is a detailed comparison in text and the second is using icons. They both show differences in the products which is not surprising.

Policy_Comparison full GIO v Coles

Policy_Comparison icons GIO v Coles

I also attach a comparison of the claims service from LMI ClaimsComparison.com. Here I have included Allianz as well.

Claims Comparison, Allianz, GIO, Coles

Neither of these sites compare prices as to me that is a long way third after the quality of the coverage and the claims service provided.

I also went on to a non LMI product site which showed what customers thought of the Coles service for home and contents. I cannot vouch for the fairness or accuracy of this site but what is shown here is not pretty.

The whole issue is not simple. In one of the price comparisons quoted by Prof Fels, Allianz comes up the least expensive. This does not mean they have an inferior product. Generally their policies are very good as is their claims service but I for one would never ever ever look at buying insurance on price alone.

What is missing from the Fells argument is the issue loyalty. You would expect that if two people made the same claim and it was grey. If one had been a loyal customer for 5 plus years with a claims free record an insurer would be more inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt and pay the claim than someone who clearly showed no loyalty chopping and changing each year. If Insurers move away from factoring in loyalty and claims experience then they deserve what they get.

Home and contents and car insurance are one thing, when you move to business insurance and particularly professional lines such as professional indemnity and directors and officers insurance, my strong advice is do not shop around on price. Choose an insurer you trust and stick with them. Sustainability of insurance is of paramount importance with these products.

The whole issue is complex, that is why I use an insurance broker even though I know just a little bit about insurance for everything, including my home and contents. Even then, if my broker only came to me recommending I chose a product on price alone, I would change brokers. My broker, does not do that and so I stay with them as they know my business, my home, and my risk appetite. I trust them and they me and I treat them as a trusted adviser.

Sorry for the rant but having handled claims for nearly 50 years, articles the one I read yesterday cause me to see red! They may get a headline but as an economist, I would have thought some consideration would have been given to the cost to our communities, state and federal economies if the wrong insurance is taken out.

Key lesson for any accountant, economist or consumer: Insurance is all about PROTECTION, not price!

I for one wished as much emphasis was made on the difference in petrol prices which is a homogeneous product, delivered well self served, and yet has massive differences. Explain that one for me Mr Fells. When it comes to insurance “oils ain’t oils”.

I am even bold enough to modify Mr Buffett’s often quoted phrase to Price is what you pay, Value is what you NEED when it comes to insurance. 

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New research confirms my intuition which in turn prompted the creation of websites

I have always felt that the emphasis on price when it comes to general insurance was just plain wrong!

As many readers would have heard me say, no one remembers the price when a claim occurs. The Insured is looking for a top of the range policy that provides genuine protection for the loss they have just sustained and a claims service that provides fast, honest service.

It was therefore pleasing to see the results from research conducted by Macquarie released at a conference put on by Lloyd’s where they put up this slide setting out the major factors influencing buyers.

This clearly shows that the product features and benefits and claims service are right up there with price.

Hence, it reinforces the value of LMI PolicyComparison.com and LMI Claims Comparison.com to insurance advisers. Neither of these sites examines price.

Equally important is the need to have someone fair looking after the client’s interests at claims time to provide genuine assistance to them so that they appreciate the value of their insurance program and that is where claims preparers provide an important role in client retention and reestablishing brand insurance.

The ongoing focus on price is just plain stupid and in the long term no one will win, insurer, broker, or insured.

Our latest initiatives of the Mansfield Awards, being undertaken in conjunction with InsuranceNEWS, which focuses on recognising the best of the best in claims and LMI BASIC which as its full name, the Business Assets Sum Insured Calculator, assists in getting the sum insured on business assets right are clearly aligned with the research.

LMI BASIC of course compliments LMI BIcalculator.com and our Under Insurance Calculator in ensuring the sums insured are adequate when ‘it” happens.

I congratulate Lloyd’s for sharing this important research.

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Insurance in the news again for not paying claims

claim-deniedI was genuinely surprised at just how many people contacted me following an article on News.com.au regarding a claim which had allegedly been denied, if the article is to be believed, on the meta data time stamp on digital photographs. To review the article please click here.

What the Insured is claiming is that the meta data time stamp is incorrect and does not support the claim. On my understanding of the matter the Insured has shown that the insurer’s allegations are not correct as he did not own the phone when they state the photos are data stamped.

As the article rightly points out digital evidence is very easy to manipulate… for example if I was to change the date on your phone or computer to 1/1/1980 and saved a jpeg image it would display that image file as “created on the 1/1/1980”…

Some services like google drive and dropbox can modify the date created to the date you chose to upload it to the service.

Image files like RAW carry more information called EXIF data. This CAN contain data like GPS location, date, time, who took the shot etc which could help in a case like this.

Below is an example of the data View full post…

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Government Price Comparison – My thoughts

bigstock-123372560I write as someone who has been handling insurance claims for over 45 years and from that perspective I think the whole idea is flawed. For most of us in the Australian economy, our home is our most important asset, after that comes our motor vehicles. We invest 10’s of thousands of dollars into these assets, often with a home loan or other forms of finance to acquire the asset.

Particularly with home & contents insurance but even with comprehensive motor insurance there are differences between the breadth of coverage afforded by the policies.

I have written about many of the pitfalls in the cheaper policies, such as texting while driving exclusions or driving into a flooded road way in motor and things such as landscaping exclusions regarding renovations, consumption of alcohol, the list goes on and on.

In those 45 years of handling claims, only 4 times has anyone mentioned the premium at the time I visited them after a claim. In each of those occasions it has been “I’ve saved this much by switching insurers, but tell me again Allan how much has this cost me?”, that is it has never been a positive experience, it is always one of regret that the consumer has purchased on price.

What really matters at the end of the day is that the coverage afforded by the insurer and their policy, the financial strength rating of the insurer and their claims service.

It is for these reasons that I have written my books on insurance such as “It may happen to me – The essential guide to general insurance” and the children’s books “What’s Insurance? – How insurance protects your stuff”, this blog, my son’s YouTube series ‘InsuranceBites’, and two comparison websites PolicyComparison.com and ClaimsComparison.com. To create a website that just compares price flies in the face of all of this effort and I would simply ask the government to have the discussion with the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) who are doing their best to urge consumers to not just buy insurance on price, but make an informed judgement on the quality of the policy and the claims service and that is why we are being encouraged to take our products such as those mentioned as well RiskCoach and BICalculator.com to the United Kingdom.

Similarly, I have grave concerns about the whole idea about the big switch when it comes to insurance. With insurance we are not talking about buying a refrigerator or electric power. We are talking about something that should be tailored to the individual needs of the insured, how do we pool someone who needs flood insurance, to someone who is in a bush fire zone, etc. The whole idea of general insurance brokers is to bring together a group of insureds through the one banner and place the right cover with the client, obtaining volume discounts. The big switch ought to leave general insurance to licensed and qualified general insurance brokers rather than converting this all important protector of individuals assets, our communities and our very economy based on the cheapest price.

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