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My French insurance was better than Apple when tea spill hit laptop

It took a clumsy splash of hot drink on her laptop for journalist Tamara Thiessen to appreciate the full benefit of her tous risques French house insurance

With digital equipment, do not expect the product warranty to cover all scenarios Pic: wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock

When I moved into my Paris flat about five years ago, my conseiller (bank adviser) at Crédit Mutuel immediately suggested I take out the tous risques mobilier option on top of the usual mandatory house insurance (assurance habitation).

The latter covers fire, natural disasters, break-ins and so forth. 

However, the ‘all furniture risks’ covers technology accidents too – and this was my main concern. 

I am not extraordinarily clumsy, but still... Appareils électroniques, Christian promised, would be covered. So too would all my digital gear – laptop, phone, camera. 

The most valuable thing I had in my newly purchased apartment – other than the apartment itself – was a Nikon D810 worth several thousand euros. That needed insuring, even if it was not covered outdoors. 

At least it meant that if I dropped it stupidly at home, it would be. Looking at the small print, I was reassured: “Our ‘all risks furniture’ option covers damage that you yourself cause, through clumsiness, to your furniture (sofa, coffee table, carpet, etc.) and to objects that you care about. 

“If you are an owner, the ‘all risks’ option protects you even in the event of accidents that are not usually covered.” 

This would insure me for technology catastrophes – breakages and other damage – with a franchise (a threshold of €120 deducted), plus 10% depreciation a year. 

Why you might need the insurance 

Within three months of moving in, the insurance came good. I dropped my mobile phone on a marble floor. The screen smashed, and the charging port too. The phone was kaput. 

Sure, it was getting long in the tooth, but still fell within the five-year-from-date-of-purchase cover limit. 

Then, in August, just a fortnight after picking up my MacBook Pro from an Apple-accredited iCare store that had just rendered it like new, I drowned it with a simple splash of tea. 

Neither iCare nor Apple would help out. The computer was, after all, two years out of warranty. 

In any case, liquid damage is not covered by that, which is pretty shoddy. And why not make such an expensive computer waterproof? 

Even before this incident, I was dissatisfied with Apple’s service. A chronic keyboard problem had seen me take it in to be serviced twice in a year. 

Apple, in my mind, should have replaced the defective laptop long ago with the quality I deserved when I first coughed up for it. 

What does the policy cost? 

My insurance paid for itself for 10 years, at least, after the Apple mishap. 

At one stage last year, I was ready to opt out of the insurance. 

So far, I thought, I had only claimed for a dropped phone – and received a couple of hundred euros indemnity. 

Thankfully, Christian talked me out of that. “It is only a few euros on top of your monthly house insurance,” he said. 

Indeed, the average home insurance for a flat in the Greater Paris region is around €216 a year, according to price comparison website, Assurland. 

I pay €276 with the tous risques option. That is barely an extra €5 a month. 

“It’s trois fois rien,” I quipped – “peanuts” – proud of my knowledge of French idioms. And, for peanuts, I can now buy myself a new laptop. 

Sure, it will not cover the starting price of €1,440 for the latest MacBook Pro 13” in Paris, but would you expect it to, four years on? It will pay two-thirds. Not bad. 

How does the insurance work? 

Each case is, of course, different. First, you must lodge a declaration of the accident (déclaration de sinistre) within five working days of it happening. 

The easiest way is via a phone banking app. Then you can follow the claim online. 

Once the insurance company took the reins, they contacted me via email to request a devis de réparation. Or, in the event it was beyond repair, the cost of a replacement computer. 

Because I was, to no avail, trying to get Apple to take responsibility, I had the devis ready to go – €1,540.43 for repairs. 

More expensive than a new laptop. Expect to receive a string of emails, politely and formally French, as the case evolves. Next was a request for a copy of the original receipt. 

Or, “failing this, its date and purchase value”. I was also instructed “to keep the damaged goods until the case is resolved”. 

In all, from the time I lodged the claim to being paid out in early October, the process took a month. Very efficient. 

A nice surprise in my bank was the payout or, as they call it, émission d’un règlement. The sum was €958.29, taking into account the €462.13 deducted for the threshold and the laptop’s age.

It seems I could have done even better. Other insurance options include ‘new for old’ (rééquipement à neuf) – either unlimited or for a five-year period. In this case, a second payment reimburses for the déduction vétusté, the cost of the wear and tear. 

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