The call cen­tre agent got it wrong – so now what?

The Star Early Edition - - ASK GEORGIE! - Lawrette McFarlane

IT HAS been nearly five months since I had to go for an un­ex­pected op­er­a­tion, re­sult­ing in be­ing booked off for six weeks and there­fore un­able to work.

I’m self-em­ployed, mean­ing that not be­ing able to work re­sults in no in­come. How­ever, in 2012, I be­came a Mo­men­tum client by choos­ing a num­ber of their poli­cies – tem­po­rary in­come pro­tec­tion be­ing one of them.

As Jan­uary this year was the first time I had to use my tem­po­rary in­come pro­tec­tion pol­icy, I needed to be sure my un­der­stand­ing of the pol­icy was ac­cu­rate, so that I could know ex­actly what was to be ex­pected and be able to make de­ci­sions and plan ac­cord­ingly.

I called Mo­men­tum on two sep­a­rate oc­ca­sions, ask­ing specif­i­cally to be trans­ferred to some­one who could as­sist with ques­tions around this pol­icy. My main aim, apart from un­der­stand­ing the claims process, was to clar­ify the mean­ing of the “wait­ing pe­riod”. I was clearly and con­fi­dently ad­vised on two sep­a­rate oc­ca­sions that a month-long wait­ing pe­riod (which was the case with my pol­icy) meant that I could not claim for any pe­riod less than a month. When asked what would hap­pen if I was booked off for six weeks, I was again clearly and con­fi­dently ad­vised that I would be able to claim and be paid for the full six weeks, not two (six weeks mi­nus the month wait­ing pe­riod).

How­ever, weeks later, when I fi­nally re­ceived a pay­ment from Mo­men­tum in early March, it was clear that the pay­ment was only for 11 days, not for six weeks as ex­pected.

I fol­lowed up on what I be­lieved to be a “mis­take” on Mo­men­tum’s side, and a few phone con­ver­sa­tions and emails later, Mo­men­tum agreed that I was given in­cor­rect in­for­ma­tion via its call cen­tre, twice (all calls are recorded). They re­fused to ac­cept any re­spon­si­bil­ity for repet­i­tive, in­cor­rect and mis­lead­ing in­for­ma­tion given to me, the client. Mo­men­tum sim­ply dis­missed the mis­takes as “bona fide er­rors” by their own agents.

My claim was then es­ca­lated and af­ter more weeks of wait­ing, I was in­formed that the call cen­tre com­mu­ni­cated “un­qual­i­fied” in­for­ma­tion and that this could not al­ter the con­trac­tual terms of the pol­icy. In a later e-mail, I was also ad­vised that it would be “un­rea­son­able to ex­pect that all our call cen­tre agents must know the in­ner work­ings or the con­tract as well as the terms and con­di­tions (and, more speci­fi­ally, the wait­ing terms) of your spe­cific pol­icy”. I was also told that it was ex­pected of a client and his/her fi­nan­cial ad­viser to read the terms and con­di­tions of the pol­icy con­tract . I’ve never ques­tioned the con­tract or terms and con­di­tions it­self; I’ve sim­ply tried to clar­ify the mean­ing of it. How­ever: I would ar­gue that phon­ing the in­surer/com­pany whose pol­icy is in ques­tion, is rea­son­able when seek­ing un­der­stand­ing in this re­gard.

I find it truly re­mark­able and un­ac­cept­able that a com­pany like Mo­men­tum is un­able to ac­cept any re­spon­si­bil­ity, nor show any good­will to­wards the client, af­ter ad­mit­ting that in­cor­rect, mis­lead­ing in­for­ma­tion was com­mu­ni­cated on more than one oc­ca­sion.

If the call cen­tre agents han­dling tem­po­rary in­come pro­tec­tion queries didn’t know the an­swer to my ques­tions, wouldn’t it be rea­son­able to ex­pect them to:

Ad­mit that they did not know the an­swer.

Trans­fer the call to some­one who would know the an­swer.

Ad­vise me to call my fi­nan­cial ad­viser/some­one else out­side of Mo­men­tum to pro­vide me with the nec­es­sary in­for­ma­tion.

None of the above hap­pened. I had no rea­son to sus­pect that any of the in­for­ma­tion was, in fact, not to be trusted.

I there­fore made de­ci­sions, both med­i­cal and fi­nan­cial, based on in­for­ma­tion that was clearly, on more than one oc­ca­sion, com­mu­ni­cated to me by Mo­men­tum. I don’t think the “wait­ing pe­riod” can be de­scribed as part of the “in­ner work­ings of the con­tract”. I called to clar­ify the mean­ing of the “wait­ing pe­riod” and not to con­test the mean­ing of my con­tract.

The last e-mail from Mo­men­tum, re­ceived on April 19, promised fur­ther in­for­ma­tion to be sent to me as soon as it was avail­able, af­ter re­vert­ing the mat­ter back to the Client Care team. I’m still wait­ing.

What should my con­clu­sion be? That the of­fi­cial call cen­tre of a re­spectable com­pany, Mo­men­tum, can­not be trusted? Af­ter be­ing dili­gent in try­ing to en­sure that I cor­rectly un­der­stood the mean­ing of my pol­icy be­fore mak­ing im­por­tant health and fi­nan­cial de­ci­sions, I ended up misled and find­ing un­pleas­ant and ir­re­versible sur­prises.

I’m not ask­ing Mo­men­tum to al­ter or com­pro­mise their con­trac­tual terms of the pol­icy. I’m ask­ing them to ac­cept re­spon­si­bil­ity for in­cor­rect in­for­ma­tion com­mu­ni­cated to me, the loyal client, and at the very least, show good­will to save the re­la­tion­ship, where trust has been bro­ken.

A client care man­ager for Mo­men­tum re­sponded: “We looked into the his­tory of this mat­ter and found that while Mo­men­tum acted ac­cord­ing to the con­trac­tual terms of the pol­icy, the cor­rect in­for­ma­tion was not com­mu­ni­cated to the client. Be­cause clear com­mu­ni­ca­tion is a com­po­nent of how we aim to treat our clients fairly, we have ad­dressed this with the ser­vice con­sul­tant and have put the re­quired train­ing in place. We have also been in con­ver­sa­tion with the client and have agreed on how to re­solve this mat­ter.”

McFarlane said they had agreed to pay her the full out­stand­ing amount (for the six weeks) as promised by the call cen­tre, since the mis­take had been on their side.

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