Motor Insurance; apart from mulling over our most worthwhile options within the saturated local insurance market, we don’t put much thought into it.
As far as the average car owner is concerned, he engages an agent, fills up some forms, hands the agent annual premiums and uses the Certificate of Insurance (CI) issued to apply for renewal of his road tax.
So it’s pretty safe to assume that he has all the accident coverage he needs, right?
As BEDS.sg‘s Chief Executive Officer Naveed Lee found out just over a year back, that isn’t necessarily so.
CI No Enough
Running a furniture retail business heavily dependent on logistics has made applying for vehicle insurance just another small chore in Naveed’s tight schedule. Details of such a miniscule matter, even filling in the ‘Pay To’ portion of the cheque, were entrusted in the care of his insurance agent, a certain Raymond Gan.
“When it comes to paying my premiums, I’d just write out a cheque with the exact amount due, pass it to my agent and then wait for my CI to arrive,” he says. He even had a habit of paying early, so his CIs always arrived on time to file for the road tax of his entire fleet of lorries.
In November 2009, a lorry was stolen. After the initial shock, Naveed proceeded to file a claim for the stolen lorry with its insurer, the then American International Group (AIG), now rebranded as Chartis.
He was in for a bigger blow.
“When we called Chartis to claim compensation for the loss of our vehicle, we were told that our policy, which we had paid a $900 premium for in February that year, had been terminated due to ‘non-payment’,” a wide-eyed Naveed recounts.
“How can this be possible? We issued a cheque, got a valid CI and used it successfully in filing road tax for that particular vehicle!” he continues incredulously and estimating that particular claim to be worth “at least $4,000”.
Chartis even claims it sent Naveed a notification of non-payment via registered mail back in 2009, a letter which Naveed insists he has never received. The insurer has failed to produce proof of Naveed’s receipt.
Then, as if to add insult to injury, the third installment of the triple whammy hit.
A few weeks after the vehicle was stolen, Naveed received a letter from a law firm representing the owner of another lorry which had been involved in an accident with the missing vehicle two months prior to its theft.
They were claiming $14,000 in damages and losses from him; a sum they failed to claim from Chartis due to the entire ‘non-payment’ fiasco, even though both drivers involved had agreed after the accident, that it was the fault of the claimant.
Agent In Question
Throughout this cruel manifestation of Murphy’s Law, Naveed tried time and again to settle everything through his agent. Smooth-talking his way out of trouble, the agent reassured Naveed that it was just a ‘system glitch’, and that he would put an end to this nasty turn of events.
This issue has been dragged out over the past one and a half years. Naveed has been receiving increasingly threatening letters from the lawyers and each time he approaches Raymond, the wily agent has a new excuse coupled with more reassuring words, promising to pay all damages out of his own pocket on many occasions. The content of the letters have snowballed and Naveed is now facing a lawsuit for the $14,000.
During this time, it also emerged that Raymond left Chartis and had been suspending from his new insurance company over a myriad of complaints similar to Naveed’s.
Naveed has exhausted all his options. The General Insurance Association of Singapore (GIA) has yet to respond to his complaint email, while all he got from Singapore’s central bank, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) was a curt reply stating that they “will be looking into the matter”.
When Naveed approached Mr Thevanathan Pillay for advice, all the Assistant Director (Legal) at local consumer watchdog, the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) suggested was to engage a lawyer to fight the impending case, and attempt to postpone the court date till Naveed’s legal advisor could successfully involve Chartis in the lawsuit.
As far as Naveed knows is that nothing is being done to directly address this gaping loophole in the local insurance system and that he stands to lose a total of close to $21,000 in premiums, vehicle loss and claims, not including the legal fees incurred on both sides.
Chartis: Too Little Too Late
After a two-year long limbo which has seen virtually nothing being done on the part of Chartis to resolve the matter, the insurance company has finally begun taking concrete steps to tackle this long-overdue problem.
Naveed has been put in touch with an agency manager from Chartis, known only to him as Conan, who has been put in charge of Raymond’s case. He plays us a recording of his phone conversation with Conan, detailing Chartis’s promises.
“The company’s standpoint is that if there’s proof of payment we will honour your policy despite it being cancelled, because Raymond has received the payment,” he has reassured Naveed.
“But of course, we have to find out what actually happened,” Conan had continued, saying that he will be interviewing Raymond today to get his side of the story on how a CI was issued without receipt of payment.
Unfortunately, this may be a case of too little too late for BEDS.sg’s CEO, as the court date is set for tomorrow. Though Raymond has promised to turn up at the court to pay on Naveed’s behalf, Naveed doesn’t count on it.
Ensure You Are Insured
As he embarks on the tedious and long-drawn legal process, Naveed has just one piece of advice.
“Since the authorities are reluctant to do anything to address this matter, all that vehicle owners out there can do is to make an urgent call to their insurer and check whether their policies are in force. Chances are that they aren’t,” he shares.
“Follow up immediately and diligently. Pressure the agents to straighten their act. Don’t risk driving without insurance coverage, because in the event of an accident, it’s not just your finances and property that are affected; lives are at stake too,” finishes a grave-looking Naveed.
*All information in this piece is verified correct at time of publishing. More interviews are being conducted to get to the root of the matter and will be published soon. In the meantime, we urge you to check the status of your policies with your insurer.