The car insurance industry in South Africa is in a crisis, because as many as 65% of South African motorists drive on our roads uninsured – largely due to the unaffordable high cost of traditional comprehensive car insurance. This means that only 35% of the motoring public is burdened with carrying 100% of the risk of driving on SA’s roads. Not surprisingly then, the sustainability of motor cover in South Africa has remained a hot topic of debate for decades.
That being said, such a large number of uninsured road users is just one of many reasons why traditional comprehensive motor insurers have struggled to keep the cost of premiums down. Treating the Customer Fairly (“TCF”) practices designed to eliminate “unfair treatment”, publicly reported Ombudsman for Short term Insurance statistics, Hellopeter, regulatory market conduct requirements, new regulatory “standards”, and a new era of consumerism have all made the situation challenging for car insurance providers. In fact, it may well have led to a marked reduction in rejected claims – even where serious concerns and deep suspicions exist – and put further upward pressure on premiums.
Weakening exchange rates, increasing replacement part costs, poor road surface maintenance, poor policing of bad driving habits, and an environment of recurrently inflated or downright fraudulent claims, have made it more difficult for motor insurers to operate in South Africa. So, there are many complex elements that need to be considered regarding why claims are rejected.
In a 2011 presentation to the financial services industry, Ismael Momoniat of National Treasury appealed to the industry saying that “The industry needs innovative and cheaper solutions to ensure penetration of a greater percentage of the motor pool.”
National Treasury’s presentation to the industry made these points for overcoming the car insurance crisis:
Six years later there has been little by way of innovation from the larger car insurance companies. On the contrary, they have dealt with the pressures of the crisis by passing on to a diminishing number of insured motorists consistently higher annual premium increases and substantial rises in their claims excess portions.
While we value online public forums such as Hellopeter and social media, there has been a real focus on making public forums like Hellopeter and Facebook look good at the expense of product affordability. This is not a sustainable solution for dealing with rejected claims and complaints of bad service.
There are, however, one or two newer car insurance businesses like Prime Meridian Direct, who have really responded to National Treasury’s request for cheap car insurance solutions. For example, Prime Meridian Direct has pioneered several unique, innovative, affordable, high-quality car cover products and their premium rates are up to 70% less costly than traditional comprehensive motor insurance. They have achieved this by transparently targeting specific motoring risks and excluding others.
Not only this, but Prime Meridian Direct has innovated no less than 9 car insurance industry firsts for their products:
Many South African motorists are notorious for their complete disregard for the rules of the road. They will ultimately need to be brought in check if there is to be any hope of resolving South Africa’s car insurance crisis.
In a recent Wheels24 article, Seamus Casserly says: “Why don’t we have a motor insurance policy that only pays if you stay within the rules and are legally compliant? If you speed or go through a red traffic light, no cover. This as a simple way to bring down the costs of insurance and to reward legal drivers.”
Building the confidence of both clients and TCF (Treating Customers Fairly)-conscious regulators alike is challenging when you’re holding policyholders to a higher standard of conduct and rejecting claims where the law has been violated. Car insurance companies can’t stop clients from using public forums like Hellopeter when they are legitimately in the wrong.
Nonetheless, this is the approach that newer car insurance businesses like Prime Meridian Direct, and more and more traditional insurers, are having to take in order to keep premium rates affordable. This is particularly so where insurers must fulfil their promises to honest, law-abiding policyholders. As one can readily appreciate, this more rigorous approach (some have called it “uncompromising”, others even “unfair treatment” or “bad service”) has brought about its own distinct client advantages. We hope to promote safe driving through our car insurance policies.
Most car insurance companies value customer feedback, as a way to improve their products and service delivery. No matter how well a cover product is explained, it is always a shock to learn that your claim was rejected. There is something irritating about such perceived “unfair treatment” and being held to account by a third party. Aggrieved claimants who didn’t abide by the rules often feel that they have reason to complain.
Social media and forums like Hellopeter sometimes give such aggrieved claimants a public platform through which to try and pressure insurers to change their decision and reverse a rejected claim.
Such “caught out” consumers are actively encouraged to complain anyway. Insurer’s rejection letters MUST by law now direct persons to the Ombudsman to whom they may complain if they wish to challenge the insurer’s decision. Not only this, but insurers are expected to bear the full cost of the arbitration of such complaints. Although under 30% of rejections are overturned, sometimes on the more fuzzy TCF bases, this is just enough of an incentive to encourage the chance takers, say some. Just another reason why premiums stay unaffordable, say others. This, nevertheless, does not mean that car insurance businesses like PMD don’t care about their clients’ needs and do everything possible to assist them.
With affordable next-generation car insurance products like those offered by newer car insurance businesses like Prime Meridian Direct, complaint levels on platforms like Hellopeter might be expected to rise. However, this will persist only until the new products are fully understood as demanding of higher driving standards, as requiring a greater element of personal risk assumption, and a better standard of claims conduct. Understanding the objectives and advantages of these products also requires more active endorsement by government and industry regulators, the very persons calling for such innovation.
Let's hope this happens sooner rather than later.
Prime Meridian values our customers and would like to assist them in any way possible. For more information, please visit the above links or feel free to contact us on 011 745 7800 should you have a query regarding your claim.Disclaimer