Justice for insurance customers

Published: Sunday | January 20, 2013 Comments 0

Insurance Helpline With Cedric Stephens

Question
: I have motor insurance with 'ABC' insurance company through 'XYZ' brokers for over 12 months. I bought another car last September while still having policies for two Nissan Sunny motor cars. When I went to insure the new vehicle at the insurance company, I was told that my best option was to cancel the policy on the car that was being replaced and get a refund. The premium for my new car would not be reduced by the 'no claims' discount on the other one until after it had been sold and the policy cancelled. I paid half of the premium and undertook to settle the balance in 90 days.

Three days later, I visited the broker and cancelled the policy. They gave me some documents in an envelope which I delivered to the insurer's office that same day. I got the refund cheque two weeks later. When I visited the insurer again to pay the balance of the premium, I was told that I was not entitled to the 'no claims' discount on the new vehicle. It had commenced prior to the cancellation of the previous one. This was not stated at any point during my first visit. Is there anything that I can do to obtain redress?

- cyn_mya@hotmail.com

HELPLINE: The Bank of Jamaica - the regulator of deposit-taking institutions - plans to introduce an "enforceable code of conduct" on the entities that it supervises.

The use of "fair, clear language in contracts and (in) communications with customers" will be one of several items in the code. The planned rules are intended to improve the quality of service that is delivered to the bank customers. I say amen to the new rules.

My question, to the Financial Services Commission, which regulates other parts of the financial system, is this: isn't the use of "fair, clear language in insurance policies and (in) communications with insurance buyers" also of importance, especially since some banks and insurance companies operate under the same umbrella?

Communication between your broker and insurer seems to be non-existent. Also, you appear to have taken on the role of the broker. Why?

Shouldn't you have sought the broker's advice in first instance instead of going directly to the insurer since the broker is your agent? I am not privy to the rules of the insurance company or why the transactions were handled in that roundabout way.

If I were to hazard a guess, I would say inexperience and poor communication on the part of the service provider and/or it was driven by economic interests. The latter clause is a nice way of saying that someone other than you may have benefited when you ended up paying more money.

Dolsie Allen, CEO of the Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC), in commenting on the BOJ's proposed code, is reported to have said: "Sometimes customers are not assertive enough and they might not even be aware of their right(s). If we can prompt, then they (bank customers) would know what standards to expect, what quality of service they are to look for, (and, in relation to the commission's own code) at least the information will be out there."

You are no shrinking violet or, to use the local equivalent, a 'Shame Old-Lady' (Mimosa pudica). You appear to be a self-assured person who knows her rights.

If the actions that you have taken at the insurance company's office do not produce satisfactory results, contact the CAC. I am sure that they will be able to help you to help get justice.

Cedric E. Stephens provides independent information and free advice about the management of risks and insurance.aegis@cwjamaica.comSMS/text message to 812-7233





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