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22.08.2020 Feature Article

Open Letter To The National Insurance Commissioner – Wake Up From Your Comatose Sir

Open Letter To The National Insurance Commissioner – Wake Up From Your Comatose Sir
LISTEN AUG 22, 2020

The Commissioner

National Insurance Commission,

Accra,

August 21, 2020

Hello Mr. Justice Yaw Ofori,

The last time I sent a formal complaint to the National Insurance Commission (NIC), about Enterprise Life, it took weeks and there was no result from you. I had to resort to Facebook and complain openly for a Relationship Manager at Enterprise Life to take up the matter before it was resolved. And this was after I had gone through a long charade with other staff of the company and they could not do anything.

Apparently, immediately it was resolved, a gentleman from NIC called me and said the most disappointing thing to me - that the company said they had resolved my problem so that was it. I expected NIC to get the company to compensate me for four specific reasons:

  1. Taking money from my savings account when I had given them a written instruction way back in April 2017, for them to take money from my current account.
  2. Issuing a needless threat to punish me for the problem they created - i.e. taking money from my savings account as premium, while there was money in the current account waiting the whole while.
  1. Making me spend my money to run back and forth between their office, filling forms three times but still failing to correct the problem they created in the first place; and trying to lie that the problem was from my bank.
  1. Spending my money and time on airtime and data just for long and numerous correspondence between me and them, and traveling to their offices from Oyibi three times just to get them to solve a simple problem they created.

Sadly, NIC overlooked all that and said once the problem is solved, that was it. The sad part is the NIC official told me, as per punishment/fine on Enterprise Life, it is between NIC and the company but not for me.

I found that very self-serving, because how could I be the one who suffered, only for the regulator to fine the operator and keep the money? It does not make sense and I still insist there must be compensation for me. I think if we do that, it will boost people's interest in insurance and the talk of low insurance penetration in Ghana will gradually become a thing of the past.

This brings me to the other issues from victims of unethical insurance companies.

NIC has pampered insurance companies for far too long and that is why they keep incentivizing agents whose only interest is the commissions they get from the insurance company for signing on clients by hook or by crook, with emphasis on "crook".

All insurance companies are, to some extent, guilty of this shoddy onboarding practice, but Enterprise Insurance in particular is very, very guilty.

I did a simple poll on Facebook and WhatsApp, asking people to tell me whether after an agent signed them on to an insurance policy, the company itself called them to confirm what they signed on to before they started deducting the premiums.

It was a simple YES or NO question. Not very scientific, but points to a worrying trend.

I got exactly 30 people responding and out of the 30, there were only 6 YESs and a whopping 24 NOs.

Of the six YESs, PRUDENTIAL INSURANCE got 3 and ENTERPRISE INSURANCE also got 3.

Then of the 24 NOs, Enterprise alone had 14, and the remaining 10 were distributed between Prudential, SIC, Star Assurance, Donewell, First Insurance, and UT Insurance.

It is really a challenge that insurance companies have this strategy of sending out non-staff agents to go sign on clients at all cost, so they gain commissions. And the companies do not care to do a follow up to confirm if indeed those new customers actually signed on to everything the agents claim.

INSIGHTS

  1. People have told stories of NOT SIGNING any document and never being given any policy document, but they just realized one day, that money was being deducted from their account after having a conversation with an agent and expressing interest. I know at least one lady, Estella Sika Ayivi, who has a story like that with DONEWELL INSURANCE. All attempts to have them quit the deductions from 2018, failed until May this year before they gave her a refund. And after giving her the money they keep deducting.
  1. Agents sign on people and tell them their money will never be deducted until the company calls them to confirm when to start the deductions. But before they could say jack, the deduction starts without anyone calling them to confirm anything. At least there is one lady called Comfort Ofori who suffered that at Starlife. She was not even given a policy document. According to her, she did not even sign any document. When she called the police on the agent, the agent promised to get it fixed by the company, but till date, it is not fixed.
  1. Agents tick boxes on behalf of clients to say that the client has agreed to increase their premium by a certain percentage every year, without telling the client that box had been ticked. This happened to me personally, and to several people I know. I personally reported it the last time, but NIC just overlooked it conveniently.
  1. Agents deceive policyholders that the policy is for a certain period, say 5 years, but when you finally get to the company itself, they have in their system that you signed on for eight years, and in some cases 10 years. Several people have complained about this, particularly with Enterprise. One gentleman I know is called Andrew Ahiaku.

These, and many other such fraudulent and unethical conducts is why the insurance company must call the client and confirm their details and everything the agent claimed.

But because the insurance company knows that premiums are largely free money for them, their orientation is more towards collecting the premiums at all cost, and gloss over the due process. So they just take the word of the incentivized agents for it, pay them their commissions and they, together, "rape" the policyholder clean.

And when you realize the anomaly and you go to them for a fix, they make excuses that their systems cannot do the fix until after the cover period is over, or you lose your money that they connived with their agents to steal from you. So, whereas they have a very efficient but “unethical” and “fraudulent way of signing on customers and collecting their money, they deliberately keep a sloppy reversal system and rather resort to coaxing the client to allow them steal some more money from you.

We cannot have all these going on, with the NIC watching and treating insurance companies with kid's gloves at the expense of policy holders, then you turn around and complain about low insurance penetration. Why would insurance companies make noise in the media when they pay out some "big" benefit to a client, if not because they "steal" money from a lot of people without giving them nothing back, so they want the whole world to know when they make those once-in-a-blue-moon payments.

I think the NIC needs to wake up from your coma and stop paying lip service to the need for better insurance penetration and start doing right by the consumer. Low insurance penetration does not refer to the number of insurance companies. It is about the clients. So, if you sit by and watch the companies fleece the few clients, how do you expect more people to come?

I hope you will do something about these issues. The last time and about my compensation too. I was told NIC wanted to call me because I expressed my disappointment in the way you handled my complaint. I have since been waiting for almost a month now and you have not called. Things cannot go on like this.

If you lost my number, it is 024XXXXXXX (I have sent the number to NIC privately).

And I will publish this article soon because I have come to appreciate the fact that telling my issues to the public, gets me quicker answers than telling the paid regulator. Is that not a shame?

Thanks

Samuel Dowuona

Citizen Participant

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