Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE -

In her ad­dress at the Johannesburg func­tion this week mark­ing the re­lease of her an­nual re­port, Deanne Wood, the Om­buds­man for Short-term In­sur­ance, noted that tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance­ments and the ev­er­in­creas­ing im­pact of so­cial me­dia have had a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on the way in which the in­sur­ance in­dus­try op­er­ates.

“Con­sumers who may in the past have suc­ceeded in tak­ing a chance or pre­sent­ing ‘al­ter­na­tive facts’ to in­sur­ance com­pa­nies are of­ten caught out by com­ments made on so­cial me­dia plat­forms,” she said.

“An an il­lus­tra­tion, older driv­ers pay sig­nif­i­cantly lower pre­mi­ums than younger driv­ers ... sig­nif­i­cant enough to en­cour­age con­sumers to pro­vide in­ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion about who the reg­u­lar driver of a ve­hi­cle will be. Our of­fice sees far too many claims be­ing sub­mit­ted where, for ex­am­ple, par­ents have rep­re­sented that they will be the reg­u­lar driver of a ve­hi­cle when, in fact, the ve­hi­cle was pur­chased by them for use by their child.

“Sim­ple desk-top in­ves­ti­ga­tions us­ing Face­book or other so­cial me­dia searches can all too eas­ily re­veal mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tions made by con­sumers who for­get to cover their tracks,” Wood said.

How­ever, the om­buds­man said she be­lieves in­sur­ance com­pa­nies could be do­ing more from their side to use tech­nol­ogy at sales stage to as­sess the risk posed by the cus­tomer. “I am re­fer­ring to un­der­writ­ing in­for­ma­tion that could be eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble to in­sur­ers through data­base sharing or in­for­ma­tion pool­ing rather than ob­tain­ing it from con­sumers dur­ing sales con­ver­sa­tions – for ex­am­ple, claims his­tory or years of un­in­ter­rupted in­sur­ance.”

Wood said her of­fice sees a large num­ber of cases in which con­sumers pro­vide sales agents with the wrong in­for­ma­tion sim­ply be­cause they could not ac­cu­rately re­call their claims his­tory.

“In mod­ern times where in­for­ma­tion of this na­ture is, or ought to be, eas­ily as­cer­tain­able by ref­er­ence to a data­base, there should be no need to leave the ac­cu­racy of such dis­clo­sure to the va­garies of hu­man rec­ol­lec­tion,” she said.

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