Mo­tor mar­ket lacks con­sumer fo­cus

Jamaica Gleaner - - FRONT PAGE -

QUES­TION: My ve­hi­cle was hit by an­other driver who was ex­it­ing a church com­pound along Molynes Road, Kingston. I was trav­el­ling along the road­way when she met head on with my rear left side. To fix my ve­hi­cle, my in­sur­ance com­pany is telling me to find the ex­cess ($150,000), which they will re­cover from her in­sur­ance com­pany. I don’t have that kind of money. The po­lice re­port proves she was wrong. Why should I have to find any money to fix my ve­hi­cle when the dam­age was caused by the other driver?

IN­SUR­ANCE HELPLINE: The quick and sim­ple an­swer to your ques­tion is that this is the way that mo­tor in­sur­ance in Ja­maica works. This is even though the pro­ce­dure makes ab­so­lutely no sense to in­sur­ance con­sumers like you, the in­jured party.

You should not have to find money to re­pair your car in the event of an ac­ci­dent that re­sulted from the care­less ac­tions of an­other driver. If the ve­hi­cle she was driv­ing was not in­sured, or her in­sur­ers re­fused to pay for some rea­son, guess who would be left hold­ing the bag?

Does this ex­pe­ri­ence in­crease or de­crease your level of con­fi­dence in the in­sur­ance in­dus­try? The Fi­nan­cial Ser­vices Com­mis­sion de­scribes its mis­sion as reg­u­lat­ing and su­per­vis­ing the in­sur­ance in­dus­try “for the pro­tec­tion of ... users, thereby en­hanc­ing pub­lic con­fi­dence”.

The se­lec­tion of the generic term “users” (which, ac­cord­ing to the on­line Ox­ford Dic­tio­nary means a per­son who uses or op­er­ates some­thing) in­stead of the more spe­cific “con­sumer” (a per­son who pur­chases goods and ser­vices for per­sonal use) pro­vides one rea­son for the way things are.

In­sur­ance reg­u­la­tors in Canada, the state of Cal­i­for­nia, and the United King­dom de­scribe their mis­sion to con­sumers (their pre­ferred word) with more clar­ity and pre­ci­sion. They un­der­stand very clearly that the two words do not mean the same thing.

Could this be why mo­tor claims there are han­dled more ef­fi­ciently than here and why those reg­u­la­tors are more con­sumer-friendly than the FSC?

There is a way around your prob­lem. Ask your in­sur­ers to pre­pare a ‘deal di­rect let­ter’. It would be ad­dressed to the third party in­sur­ers. The let­ter would tell the third party In­sur­ers to deal di­rectly with you in re­la­tion to the claim that you have against the other driver. This means that you would ne­go­ti­ate the set­tle­ment of your claim di­rectly with them in­stead of through your in­sur­ance com­pany. If this pro­ce­dure was adopted, you would not have to pre­fund the cost of re­pairs to your ve­hi­cle.

About five weeks ago, I wrote a piece head­lined ‘Do politi­cians be­lieve in sci­ence?’ It was ad­dressed to law­mak­ers who were de­bat­ing the new Road Traf­fic Bill. I ar­gued that mem­bers of par­lia­ment had not done any home­work or con­sid­ered the find­ings of sci­en­tific re­searchers about the haz­ards as­so­ci­ated with the use of cell­phones while op­er­at­ing mo­tor ve­hi­cles.

Clause 121 of the bill pro­hib­ited the use of hand­held com­mu­ni­ca­tion de­vices but per­mit­ted the use of de­vices which were af­fixed to ve­hi­cles. Re­search on the other hand, sug­gested that

both hand­held and hands­free de­vices im­paired driv­ing.

Here is some ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion for law­mak­ers to con­sider:

Fed­eral auto safety reg­u­la­tors in the US are ask­ing smart­phone man­u­fac­tur­ers to con­sider adding a ‘driver mode’ to block cer­tain apps and func­tions to pre­vent dis­tracted driv­ing, to min­imise dis­trac­tion ex­pe­ri­enced by a driver us­ing that de­vice.

Af­ter a four-decade de­cline, the num­ber of high­way deaths ticked up last year in the largest an­nual per­cent­age in­crease in 50 years. And so far, 2016 is on track to be even worse – from Jan­uary to June, high­way fa­tal­i­ties jumped 10.4 per cent from 2015, ac­cord­ing to NHTSA. Some per­sons say the in­crease in high­way deaths is due to the use of cell phones while driv­ing.

In driver mode, smart­phones would be un­able to ac­cess cer­tain apps, like Twit­ter or Snapchat. Video would be blocked, as would dis­tract­ing graph­ics and scrolling text. Users would also be un­able to use the phone’s key­board to

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