Statistics can throw up real surprises. I refer to the information on consumer complaints against insurers put together by the insurance regulator on its new website dedicated to consumers: www.policyholder.gov.in. If you click on the Consumer Complaints icon, the last in the drop-down menu is the “complaint data” for 2010-2011.
Here, the number of complaints against public sector insurers is surprisingly small. It is the private-sector insurers which have logged the highest number of complaints.
The regulator should give some additional inputs. As the number of complaints is an indicator of the quality of service, it should be put in the right perspective by giving the volume of business done by each insurer, thereby indicating the percentage of complaints to the total number of policies. Similarly, consumers should have inputs on the nature of complaints and the average time taken for their resolution. Claim processing time of each insurer would be welcome, as would be details on the regulatory action taken against erring insurers. Information on the last category is available elsewhere on the website, but it would be more meaningful here.
At a time when consumers are constantly being misled into buying wrong insurance products (in the life insurance sector, 25% of the complaints pertain to misselling), the website is a real money-saver. However, it can be even better and I am glad the regulator has put up the website for public comments before it is formally launched. (You can send in your comments before May 21 to the IRDA). For example, the website should simplify at least some of the important terms and conditions of various policies and explain their significance. Drafted in highly technical terms, many of these are incomprehensible to consumers.
Similarly, the information provided to senior citizens could include “alerts” against misselling by banks, considering that a large number of them have been victims.
The information on the orders of the ombudsman is too scanty to serve as case law. It might be better to provide a link to the website of the governing body of the Insurance Council, where these orders are available. Important consumer court and Supreme Court judgments on insurance would be useful.
The website tells you how to buy an insurance product, what precautions to be taken at the point of sale, and how to go about getting your complaint redressed.
Perhaps the most interesting information comes through the icon Protecting You — it tells you all about the various measures taken by the regulator to protect consumer interest, such as the 'free look period' and the portability of health insurance. There is also information on pension policies and unit-linked products. You can also compare ULIP policies through a mobile application (www.m.irda.gov.in).
Girija Menon: After I made a claim on my health policy, the insurance company is refusing to renew it. What can I do?
The company cannot refuse to renew your policy on such a ground. So ask for a refusal in writing and complain to IRDA. In order to refuse a renewal, the insurer has to prove that there was a fraud on your part or there was moral hazard (intentionally taking the policy to make a false claim) or misrepresentation. Please visit the IRDA website that I have mentioned above for more detailed information. It will also help you lodge your complaint.
Contact Pushpa Girimaji: firstname.lastname@example.org