Wednesday, December 22, 2010

My OUTsurance misunderstandings

I probably complain more than most, especially when I feel unjustly or unfairly treated. Hence my rant earlier this week about OUTsurance. What I can honestly say is that I'm embarrassed at how badly I got it wrong. And before you sceptics start asking difficult questions, no one has threatened me or asked me to remove my previous post. It is entirely voluntary, and is in response to the considerable efforts by two dedicated people: Kitso Seitshiro in claims and Peter Khan in management. Let me explain.
I first got upset because I understood my vehicle to be insured for approx R10,700 - a figure quoted verbally by the sales department, and confirmed by an assessor report. But the claims department insisted that the actual value of the vehicle is actually only R 8600. So something was "off", and I got very suspicious. It turns out that if you do an electronic lookup on the "TransUnion Auto Dealers Guide" you won't find my wife's 1988 VW Fox 1600 listed any more. It's listed instead in the more generic "Cars and Commercial Vehicles over 10 years old" category. Why their computer system doesn't reflect this is something that OUTsurance and TransUnion will have to figure out. TransUnion are already scratching their heads over this one. So what appeared to be different values from two different departments in the same company was a genuine mistake, not an evil conspiracy. Furthermore, I was quite impressed when management offered to use the higher value when sorting out the claim.
The next problem I faced was trying to get a copy of the "fine print" booklet, referred to as the Adobe Acrobat Portable Document"Personal Facility Booklet". Both the sales department and the claims department kept thinking I was referring to the insurance schedule, not the "green booklet". No one thought to say that it was on their web site all along. They were genuinely confused when I said "fine print" because there isn't any. No, really, there is no fine print. The principles and terms and conditions are written in plain language that even a programmer like me can understand, and the writing is big enough to read without a magnifying glass. Now if only some other insurance companies did that we'd all be better off. The only shortcoming of this approach is that it may err on the side of over-simplification. But still, 63 pages covering all kinds of insurance is pretty amazing.
I hate financial surprises, and the surprise I found was that if the repairs on a vehicle get close to or exceed the insured value, most people simply write off the wreck and get a new car. Our cars are old and cheap, and we wouldn't dream of scrapping a car that we could repair, because finding a replacement vehicle is going to be a financial nightmare. Call me a cheapskate, but I'd prefer to pay off my house than buy another car.
So what the claims department originally said was that rather than writing the vehicle off as scrap and selling the wreck on auction, they would pay out the equivalent "wreck" price (70% of the retail price) and allow us to keep the vehicle and repair it ourselves. I was disappointed that the car was worth so little, but not entirely surprised. They were actually trying to be helpful, but with all the other confusion about the costs I didn't see that. Now I do.
One lesson I have learnt: read the documents carefully. Every year they send out a letter informing us of the new premium values, but what had slipped my attention even though it is clearly written in full sight is that the excess increases as well. What started as R1000 ten years ago crept up to R2860. I have changed the policy to put it back at R1000, and don't mind the minor premium increase.
Another lesson: when you are insuring a cheap clunker you are mainly covering yourself if you hit something expensive, not if someone hits you. Old clunkers may be fully paid for, but they cost money to repair.
So now ask yourself this question: how many insurance company executives are willing to spend half an hour on the phone from 5.30 (i.e. WAY after office hours) to 6pm to sort out a misunderstanding and turn an irate but confused customer into a happy one? That's what Kitso and Peter did today. Plus they called me individually on Monday and Tuesday. Awesome.
I am now convinced that at no point was anyone trying to rip me off, and my frustration at their lack of understanding was simply that I was demanding to see "the fine print" when there really wasn't any. Hence their confusion and my frustration. It has eventually dawned on me that they were actually taking my complaint far more seriously than anyone could reasonably expect. Awesome.

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