Tuesday, September 29, 2020

“Insurance companies are breaching customer rights”

Dear Editor

I was recently very disappointed and disillusioned with the decision of a certain renowned insurer in town who tried to force me to remove my accident damaged vehicle from one garage to another where they apparently had the so called “Service Level Arrangements” (SLAs).

When I reported to this Insurer of my accident damaged vehicle, I was told to take it to the three panel beaters where they had the so-called service arrangements as a pre-condition to attend to my vehicle.

I have been trying to figure out the exact rationale behind this and to me, it’s like a lack of understanding and appreciation of a customer’s best interest on the side of these Insurers. In fact, I am entitled as a customer, according to the insurance policy, to take my vehicle to a garage I deem fit to do the best repairs as possible to my vehicle. The companies are forgetting that we Batswana are passionate about our vehicles and the thought of dragging us around to suspect garages is rather crude and just unacceptable.
When I pay my premiums to an insurer, I pay to safeguard myself against unforeseen eventualities to my vehicle which to some of us is also a symbol of prestige and pride more than just being a utility car.

To me, and I believe many others too, we have personal attachment to our cars. This is a fact these Insurance companies are deliberately forgetting which actually is the main reason we part ways with huge monthly premiums they charge in order to preserve our vehicles. Therefore, it is just natural that if I need repairs done to my vehicle it should go to the best garage out there not the one chosen by someone else.

Moreover, how can we trust the so called SLAs or let alone understand their details! Whose interest do they represent? How are we going to know that the arrangements made are there to benefit us? My suspicion is that claims managers will be using this jargon of service agreements to hoodwink customers into believing it’s in their interest yet, all the time, it’s some managers at these Insurance companies who use them as a smokescreen to take business to garages where they have vested interest. These so called SLA’s are suspect in many ways and probably only serve as mere ploys that benefit a few guys in the Insurance industry.

Who is fooling who here? Do companies expect us to trust their judgment that the repairers with whom they sign these agreements are the best? Would one imagine the thought of being recommended to take your beloved child to a doctor you do not know much about? It’s ridiculous to say the least! These guys are arrogantly breaching customer’s rights and privileges much to the detriment of their own corporate image.

If Insurers through their claims managers are indeed allowed to dictate terms to customers like the way I was treated, customers will soon find themselves at a mess of unscrupulous repairers who would merely just pass the test of the claim manager’s interests and not the actual finer quality expectations of customers. The risk to an Insurer dictating terms as to where customers should take their cars is that it makes it easy for them to collude and control repairers who would sign these SLA’s to probably even use secondhand parts so that the Insurer and the repairer save a few bucks on a certain claim while the customer suffers.
I thought to myself in whose interest did this insurer enter into these arrangements anyway? Why should they think they can just do as they wish to customer’s cherished vehicles? Why should I be forced to go to a particular service provider who is actually not the best in town? I strongly believe it should always remain the prerogative of a customer paying premiums and not the Insurer to choose a rightful service provider who is capable of doing a better job on a car.

Besides, what’s wrong with the old arrangement where Insurers had their own assessors to authenticate the repairs done to any car together with the vehicle owner? Why are they changing suddenly? The assessor and a customer are enough to ensure the best workmanship was done to a vehicle and I believe this is a best win-win arrangement between the insurer and the insured. Any diversion from this raises suspicions and more questions than answers as to exactly why they are doing this.

The other trouble with this so called SLA’s is the criteria used to select them. What was the basis on which these companies signed these SLA’s? Who passed these garages’ fitness to handle repairs? Is it their legal mandate as an Insurer to go out in the market to choose repairs for customers? These are the questions which need honest and sober answers from companies trying to enforce this strategy.
The transparency in these SLA’s leaves so much to be desired. It actually does not make sense for Insurers to enforce this when there are so many service providers customers can choose to do business with out there which is also our right as stipulated in the insurance policy.

I suspect some senior management officer at this particular Insurer probably intends to abuse these arrangements with some service providers in the market for their own benefit. This sort of behavior will place many customers’ vehicles at a risk of shoddy repairs with untested garages.

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The Telegraph September 30

Digital edition of The Telegraph, September 30, 2020.