4
Opinions Sun, 2 Aug 2020

Click for Market Deals →

I am totally disappointed in National Insurance Commission

For those who didn't read about my experience with Enterprise Life, let me briefly tell you what happened - they took money from my savings account without my consent to pay for a premiums they were supposed to take from my current account. This happened for two years, in spite of the fact that I gave them written instructions twice, to take the money from my current account. The annoying part is, when they run into problems, they rather accuse me of failing to pay my premiums and threaten to cancel my policies if I don't pay. How unethical and unprofessional could a company be?

As if that was not bad enough, after filing a formal report to the industry regulator, National Insurance Commission (NIC), I ended up becoming more disappointed in them than I was in Enterprise Life. In fact, I think NIC's abysmal handling of customer complaints is a major reason insurance penetration in this country is excruciatingly low.

It would appear that regulators in this country ride on the backs of customers' complaints to line their pockets at the expense of the customer. When you report issues to the regulator, they go on the back of your complaint to fine the companies you complained about, but all you get is a fix of the mess, but no compensation for what stress and cost you may have incurred as a result of the mess they company caused.

I really did have expectations that the regulator was going to penalize Enterprise Life for taking money from my savings account without my permission, and make them compensate me for doing that, and also for the stress they put me through, by making me visit their office several times, make several calls to them and visit my bankers several times, all in a bid to fix a mess they caused.

The NIC official assigned to me, came back to me after about two months of my complaint, only to tell me they wrote to Enterprise Life and the company recently came back to them and said they had fixed my problem so that is the end of the matter. In fact, after I complained to NIC, I kept talking about it on Facebook until one relationship manager at Enterprise Life read my post and intervened. That was when I started seeing some resolution. Just about a week after that, NIC came back to me with their lame and pretentious response, as if they solved anything.

I asked the gentleman, what about all the stress I went through and the cost I incurred in all the back and forth and the phone calls and all, through no fault of mine? He told me they will sanction Enterprise Life but that is not for me to know.

I had a shock of my life. Someone comes to you with a complaint - without your intervention the company finds a way to correct their wrong. You contacted them and they said they have corrected the mistake - then you quickly call the customer and tell him once the mistake is corrected, the matter is closed, and that whatever sanction you impose is not for the customer to know.

That is the most lame, pretentious and self-serving policy I have ever heard of in my life. It reminds me of how the National Communications Authority (NCA) used to fine telecom operators for poor service to their customers, without giving the customer any compensation, until the Network of Communication Reporters (NCR), of which I am a proud member, raised the matter about compensation for customer, before NCA started directing telcos to compensate customers for poor service. Indeed, that kind of compensation restores customers trust and confidence in the service provide.

NIC does not seem to understand the purpose of regulating the relationship between insurance companies and their customers. A company subjects a customer to such needless stress and cost through their own unethical, unprofessional and or lazy conduct, and all the customer gets, per the regulator's policy, is a correction of a two-year-long bad conduct, while the regulator counts their golden eggs on the back of the poor customer.

Poor Insurance Penetration

The insurance industry regulator and players have been complaining about the low level of insurance penetration in Ghana. The figure stands at about 1.2%, which is woefully low, particularly now that the country is going digital in terms of financial transaction to drive financial inclusion. Government and other financial industry players are doing everything, besides just talking, to get people to buy into the Digital Ghana agenda and trust the electronic transaction platforms and use them.

NIC does a lot of talking about the need for insurance penetration to grow as part of the financial inclusion drive. But already, lots of Ghanaians do not trust in insurance companies because they often promise heaven, when they sign you on, but when the time comes for you to claim your benefits, they pull up some voodoo terms and conditions to prove that you do not qualify for the benefit, after they have taken your money consistently for years.

Insurance companies even run schemes where they give you part of your own money as a loan, in the name of partial withdrawal; and they charge you interest on it when your funds mature and you go for it. They are very much aware, that with the risk policies, it is free money for them until you make a claim. So to the extent that you do not make any claim, the money remains theirs. And if you decide to surrender, you walk away with zero. Nothing.

Because of that awareness, they play all kinds of games with customers - to the point that some just decide to surrender and lose everything. I personally know a lady who lost eight years of premium because the insurance company acted unethically and she decided to surrender, thinking she was going to get some money back, but as usual, they pulled up their voodoo terms and conditions on her and she had to walk away with nothing.

Another lady wrote on my Facebook wall that she agreed with her insurers to pay her monthly premiums via mobile money and she was doing so every monthly without fail. But for some reason, only known to Enterprise Life, they decided to start taking money from her Stanchart Bank account without her consent. That is similar to what they did to me.

I had signed on three policies with my savings account at Societe Generale six years ago. Then in April 2015, I instructed them via a letter to switch to my current account at the same bank. For reasons only known to them, they did not. They kept deducted money from my savings account and sometimes from my current account. It was like they were play chess between my bank accounts just because they knew both account numbers. How unethical can an insurance company get?! They knew very well that if I decide to surrender, I will lose heavily, so they do not care how they treat me; whether I feel satisfied as a customer or not, that is not their concern. Once I have given them access to my bank accounts, they were balling.

In February 2020, I went to the Enterprise Life again and gave them another written order to take money from my current account and not my savings. This was after I had had to pay five months premium for three policies in bulk with my mobile money. Again, they failed resort to my current account - they continued taking money from my savings. Initially, they tried to blame it on my bank, but they found very quickly that I was not the type they could beat with that lame excuse.

When they run into problems accessing my savings account, they rather issue a threat on me that if I don't pay the premium, they will close my policies. How unprofessional and lazy can a company get; that is the highest level of poor customer service I have ever experienced. I had to go to their office again, only for a staff member to talk me into waiting for them to solve the problem. Still it was not solved.

I then had to go on Facebook and expose them before I started getting calls from their directors, customer relations managers, and complaints officials. Should it have taken a Facebook post for them to do what is right? That is where I have issues with the regulator. The company conduct is counterproductive to the drive towards growing the insurance penetration in the country, and instead of the regulator acting in a manner for me, the customer, to feel that they had my back, so that I could still trust in the system and stay, they rather chose to issue a punishment that rewards them and leaves me hanging.

I spelt out all my frustration and unethical manner in which Enterprise Life conducted themselves towards me. In fact, I even stated how an agent of theirs ticked a box on my behalf without my knowledge. He ticked a box to increase my premium by 10% every year and I didn't even know about it until I noticed about 75% increase in my monthly premiums. How fraudulent is that?

All that did not make the NIC realize that if they honestly and truly want the insurance penetration to grow, then, rather than just talking about it, they should rather quit lining their pockets at the expense of suffering customers, and start thinking about how people like me and those two ladies will be compensated by defaulting insurance companies (Enterprise Life in all these three cases) so that we can be confident to tell others that if any insurance company mistreats you, you can go to NIC and you will surely get proper redress.

Whatever be the case, Enterprise Life was going to correct the deliberate meddling with my savings account, once I was squeaking about it in public. But if that is all there is to it, as far as the customer is concerned, then we had better used social media to seek redress than to ran to the useless regulator who could not get the company to compensate the customer for their unethical behavior.

One may say they did not steal my money, but used it to settle my premiums. But they made me travel back and forth to their office, the bank, made several calls, sent several messages and all the stress I had to go through from their threats to cancel my policies through no fault of mine. They must be told that you cannot treat a customer that way, particularly when the customer had given you written instructions, not once, but twice.

I am more disappointed in NIC than in Enterprise Life; and I repeat that if this is how they mediate between insurance companies and customers, then they are a major part of the reason insurance penetration is going nowhere in this country.

Columnist: Samuel Dowuona

Disclaimer

GhanaWeb is not responsible for the reportage or opinions of contributors published on the website. Read our disclaimer.

Send your news stories to and via WhatsApp on +233 55 2699 625.

Join our Newsletter