Friday 28 October 2016

Consumer Champion: Cover your bike and avoid getting saddled with cost of having to buy a new one

40pc of the adult population now owns a bike
40pc of the adult population now owns a bike

I'M not a cyclist, and feel I must be missing out.

Two wheels are increasingly popular for getting about, especially in the ever more congested city centre.

With city council proposals to take even more cars off the streets along the quays and College Green, it seems pedal power can only increase, and if we want to get around it may soon be the only way that makes sense.

This week I'm looking at the sorry side of cycling. Bicycle theft has increased by 227pc in the past decade, reflected perhaps in the increase in usage and value of bikes.


The incredibly popular Cycle to Work scheme that allows full tax relief on bikes bought by companies for their employees led to a surge in ownership.

According to Ciaran Mulligan of BicycleInsurance.ie, a leading cover provider, 40pc of the adult population now own a bike, the average value being €382 and a quarter of them worth more than €500. Of course, you can pay a great deal more if you want, and many of those involved in cycling clubs or triathlons will fork out thousands for an elite machine.

"Sales are up 50pc in the past six months," says Ciaran, which of course means that cyclists have realised the value of having separate insurance rather than covering bikes on their household policy. They've also realised, possibly the hard way, that making a claim isn't always straightforward.

While ordinary household policies may cover bikes, some do not, or only cover thefts from the home. You might think it's no different to your TV or golf clubs, but insurers often take a different view when it comes to bicycles.

Only one in three bikes are stolen from garden sheds and houses, with the vast majority instead being nicked from public places. Some policies charge you a higher excess for that, or may not cover away-from-home theft at all.

Incredibly, 74pc of all bike thefts are in Dublin. Last year, 6,750 bikes with a combined value of €4m were stolen from our city streets, so it's big business, not to mention a big nuisance if you're the victim.

An Garda Siochana has introduced a number of measures to try to counteract bike theft, but it's very difficult. The first was introducing a Flickr page on its website (www.garda.ie) that shows images of all recovered bicycles. The pictures come tagged with the nearest garda station to where they were found, so you can search by county.

The biggest problem is finding who owns them. Surprisingly, only 10pc of bikes have their serial numbers recorded by their owner (it's normally found under the frame and it's worth keeping a note of it). Without it, reuniting them can be difficult.

In the last two years alone, some 2,500 recovered bikes had to be auctioned off by gardai as owners couldn't be traced. They've also started placing "bait bikes" in key locations, with GPS transponders to track them when they're taken.

The garda advice is to always report bike theft, even if you think there's no point. It also means you'll be able to make an insurance claim, as this will normally be a requirement of any policy.

Household policies may not be the best way to insure your bike. The excess on them (the first part of any claim you pay) is normally €250 or more, which may well be more than the value of the bike.

You might also lose your no-claims bonus, so you'll end up paying it back in increased premiums. It may not even be covered if it's classed as sports equipment, so don't assume it is. Tenants may find it even more difficult on their contents policies to get bikes insured, so do ask.

There are a select few companies offering bike insurance. The bonus of insurance can only be assessed by you, the biker, but if your bike is of any decent value I'd recommend it.

The table shows quotes for a bike worth €750, and prices depend on the year of the bike, value and whether you want additional cover such as liability or accidental damage.

Policies also include accessories (helmets and locks, for example) up to a set value and cover abroad. There's a mandatory 14-day cooling-off period to cancel the purchase if you change your mind.

There will be an excess on all policies. It's quite difficult to ascertain sometimes, but it's anything from €25 to 10pc of the bike's value. If your bike is stolen from a commercial premises such as a city centre car park or off the street your excess might be higher, so bear that in mind.

And if all that's too much for you, don't forget the excellent Dublin Bikes scheme which is such a success. You sign up for €20 a year and most short journeys are free. It's a great way to get started before you invest in your own bike, and you don't have to worry about it getting nicked.


Don't let Greek crisis ruin your hols

Those going on holiday to the beautiful Greek islands may be worried about the current crisis. With a euro exit looking increasingly likely, tourists need to make plans before heading off. Your pre-paid package holiday won't change - you'll still get there and back. Any drachma reintroduction will take over a year to implement, and the euro will remain the currency in the meantime.

However, shops, restaurants and other retailers may be more reluctant to take your credit card - they'll want hard cash if they're in a financial crisis that makes them fear for their currency falling apart.

Be aware of this, but not to the point where you're carrying lots of cash around and posing a theft risk. Use hotel safes and split up money in your party.

Strikes and riots remain a probability, so this may impact on your getting around on buses, ferries and public transport. Capital controls have been issued. This restricts the amounts being taken from banks, and some ATMs may not be stocked.

If there is a full run on banks, this will escalate.

With every crisis comes opportunity. If you haven't yet booked a holiday, flights to Greece are cheaper and plentiful, and package holidays are down around 10pc in cost.

If you're feeling lucky, you might get an ultra-cheap break where others won't go. The cost of living has plummeted and late bookers could bag a bargain.


Government should make it easier for credit unions to issue loans


I'm pleased to see any remedy that gets people out of the clutches of money-lenders who charge extortionate rates for the smallest of loans.

The Government's new Micro Finance Plan - to be run through credit unions and post offices - offers loans of up to €1,000. But they're charging 12pc a year, making them three times more expensive than a mortgage.

Why not just straighten out the credit unions to do business more easily? There's no real need for yet another agency, just proper regulation.

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