Readers say insurer is a cheat

For the past four weeks Consumer Line has been inundated with complaints from aggrieved readers who say South African Underwriters is ripping them off.

For the past four weeks Consumer Line has been inundated with complaints from aggrieved readers who say South African Underwriters is ripping them off.

It is alleged that the company (SAU) writes off repairable vehicles or authorise that they be repaired with parts of inferior quality.

Now SAU is accused of stealing R1590 from a reader who did not take short-term insurance with the company.

Pauline Kgobe complained that SAU wanted to write her car off when it was quite repairable.

Only after Consumer Line intervened did SAU agree to repair the car.

Then Albert Tsweleng complained that his car was repaired with fong kong parts but he was made to pay the full excess.

The repair costs were R10066, which included tax.

Tsweleng says he had to pay an excess of R9500 - and Sharlene Welcome of SAU says Tsweleng was charged correctly.

But when he signed the policy, Tsweleng says, he was told that his excess was R2000.

So he in actual fact paid almost the complete repair amount while SAU only paid R566. Welcome says that's how SAU works.

"Clients pay nine percent and SAU pays one percent," she says.

Tsweleng has now taken up his case with the ombudsman for financial services providers.

A third consumer, Mamosing Shalang, is battling to get back R1590 with which, he says, SAU debited his bank account without his authorisation or knowledge.

He says last month he noticed that the company had debited his account twice within 48 hours. He called SAU's office for clarity and was told he had taken their short-term policy over the phone when he insured his Hilux Raider.

The vehicle was bought on August 13 and was financed by Wesbank.

But Shalang says he never bought the vehicle.

The premium amounts with which SAU debited his account on three occasions are not all the same, so they would not be easily picked up if you had a number of debit orders going through your account, Shalang says.

They debited R523 on the day they said he took the cover and a further R418 two days later.

In September their premium went up to R648 but they insist it is the amount they quoted when Shalang took their cover.

"I wish I owned a car but I cannot afford one," Shalang says.

Consumer Line discovered that SAU does not have his full name, nor does the company have a copy of his driver's licence.

A woman from SAU, who introduced herself as Tankiso, says they had taken only his initials when Shalang took cover from them and that they did not have a copy of his driver's licence.

Geoff Temlett of SAU insists that Shalang is insured with the company. He says they will not refund his money because he was covered for August.

Temlett says SAU had confirmed with the dealership that the client took delivery of the vehicle and that Wesbank financed it.

He insists that SAU got his banking details from him during a voice recording, but Shalang vehemently denies having had a telephone conversation with SAU.

"They do not have my home or work phone numbers, not even my cell number or my physical address," he says.

Temlett says: "We have cancelled the policy as requested but are not in a position to entertain any refunds since the client enjoyed cover through our insurer for the periods the premium was deducted.

"At this juncture we would like to mention that it is a requirement of the financial institution that we supply a confirmation of comprehensive motor cover before they deliver a vehicle," Temlett says.

"These confirmations are issued by ourselves and are a binding commitment whereby, should anything that is covered by the policy occur to the vehicle, we will be legally responsible to make payment towards the financial institution that financed the vehicle.

"It seems to have become practice (and this has no direct or indirect reference to Shalang) that clients take out insurance cover to take delivery of vehicles and then cancel the insurance immediately afterwards.

"As you can appreciate this exposes the client and financial institutions to potentially large losses. I have spoken to Shalang and explained all this to him and he insists he does not have the vehicle.

"If this is the case, this issue is larger than just the insurance premiums going off. It means someone has financed a vehicle fraudulently in the client's name and the client could be a victim of identity theft."

Temlett says he will entertain the refund if Shalang gives them a case number.

But he has not given Consumer Line the car dealer's name or the copy they sent to Wesbank confirming the cover.