Customer gets caught by fine print

Fitness and wellness coach, Brian Super, said that in future he will pay attention to detail.

This after thieves broke into his car parked behind high walls and gates at his Parklands home and stole his Lenovo laptop 8 and bag to the value of R7 800 from the boot.

Mr Super bought the computer in 2016 from Game with compulsory insurance from Finrite underwritten by Hollard which he accepted.

He had already paid R7 310 in premiums, the last being deducted a few days before the theft.

Mr Super, whose core business is property, which he runs from a house in Blaauwberg Street, Table View, told Thami Kubheka, customer experience agent, read call centre, at Finrite: “My car was parked behind automated locked gates and high walls, at my home, and my laptop computer was completely concealed in the boot. The thieves gained entry by visible means, we (my wife and the police) could clearly see that they opened both our cars, without breaking our windows. Since then I am having difficulty opening my car door, with my key, which indicates that they probably used a mechanical device, or heaven forbid a master key, to gain access.”

As is usual with call centres there was a delay until Mr Super prompted Ms Kubheka, who
told him to check the policy wording, “which says a device that is stolen from an unattended vehicle is not covered unless you provide us with a proof of visible force of entry or a CCTV footage”.

Mr Super did that when he submitted his claim. The invoice from his mechanic said: “Drivers (sic) door lock damage do (sic) to forced entry and will need replacing”.

Later Ms Kuhbeka told him that a follow-up “has been made to Hollard but note that your claim will be repudiated as per the ‘policy T&C’ and automatically your policy will be cancelled, please confirm if the decline letter can be sent to this email address”.

Mr Super asked her, “Is it right or legal for that matter, because the criminals were clever and used non-violent means, that I am not eligible for cover? I think that to resolve this, I should take my car to ‘Master Keys’ for them to check my door lock, and to submit a report to Hollard. If I don’t get joy that way, then I will have to escalate my complaint to someone in higher management, within Finrite and Hollard, as I feel I have been unfairly compromised, after paying my policy since 2016.”

Instead, Mr Super asked me to intervene after he read the story about Game not being helpful in replacing Beulah Marks’ washing machine (“Frustration as store fails to play by the game”, Off My Trolley, February 12).

After Mr Super’s claim was rejected he read the insurance policy Game gave him for the first time, and he said “they were just using the terms and conditions as a loophole to avoid paying the claim”.

Mr Super did say that he read the disclosure document after Ms Kuhbeka’s response.

“It (the document) clearly states, among other things, in clause 3.1, that ‘I am aware that I have purchased the Game Insurance pack on a non-advice basis’…So in effect I lost premiums worth R7 310, by being honest. If I had read the policy wording I would have known I needed to prove forcible entry. At the outset I was concerned about the invoice from the mechanic which wasn’t very professionally done,” said Mr Super who got an affidavit from the Table View police because he was told he had to get a case number.

Hollard spokesperson, Warwick Bloom, told me: “The team dealing with Mr Super and their rejection of the claim seems to have been made in line with the policy terms and conditions, but also in line with our general approach to such claims. We are aware that thieves can secure access to vehicles without forcible entry, but also obviously need to protect ourselves against potentially false claims, and so we always ask claimants for any evidence that can support their claim where there is no evidence of forced entry.

“Camera or video footage of the incident is obviously first prize, but in the absence of such footage we look at other potential evidence as well. In this particular case, we were provided with only an invoice/quotation/assessment, dated three weeks after the incident, for a fictitious amount and not containing a company registration number to allow for easy validation. This was not considered sufficient proof of the incident. This is not a comment on the validity of Mr Super’s version of events – it just places us in the difficult position of having insufficient evidence to support the claim. Nor does it indicate any dishonesty on the claimant’s part. Mr Super is within his rights to approach the Ombudsman for Short Term Insurance for an independent assessment of the rejection. He is also welcome to seek legal advice in the matter.”

Mr Super said the response was pretty much what he expected.

“I did say that I was reluctant to submit the report from my mechanic to Finrite/Hollard as I felt it had to be redone. It was not for a fictitious amount, as Hollard mentioned. It was simply a report and not a quote, although there was no figure for the damage. But the paperwork did say ‘invoice’ which was one of my concerns, paying attention to detail.

“Yes, the claim was submitted three weeks later basically I did not know until then, that Finrite wanted proof of forcible entry, when they threw the terms in the standard policy document back at me. I did ask about Hollard to show me proof when I bought the laptop from Game in 2016 that I agreed to all the terms and conditions, that they are using to protect themselves. Again attention to detail,” said Mr Super who wanted to know if it’s necessary for consumers to sign an insurance policy, “to prove that we understand the contents, as this is definitely the case, when one buys or leases property which is my core business”.

When Mr Super accepted the laptop he in effect signed for the insurance policy even though he hadn’t read it.