Ruling does little to help struggling widow

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 July, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 July, 2010, 12:00am


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Widow Lai Yip-kwong, 54, earns HK$8,000 a month as a caretaker in a hospital. Of that HK$7,760 is eaten up by insurance premiums.

And this is likely to persist for at least another eight years as she pays off policies she says she was deceived into buying by an insurance agent.

After a complaint from Lai the agent, Yau Yuet-lin, has been disciplined for breaching the industry's code of practice and her company, AIA, has been ordered to repay Lai the premiums paid on one policy.

But this is of little consolation to Lai. 'Sometimes I have nightmares and dream of Yau's face,' she said.

Lai says her troubles began in 2007 when Yau persuaded her to transfer two life insurance policies from Hang Seng Bank to AIA, telling her she would get higher returns by doing so.

She was asked to pay money up front, which she later discovered had been used by Yau to buy two new policies with a longer expiration period, leaving her paying premiums on four policies. In early 2008, Lai bought what she thought were three more policies through Yau, but it turned out she had signed her up for four.

The Hong Kong Federation of Insurers earlier ruled that Yau had committed two breaches of the code of practice. Her insurance licence was suspended for six months, deferred for a year, and AIA was required to repay Lai HK$32,000.

Sze Tak-loy, member of the Hong Kong Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood who helped Lai lodge the complaint, said the penalty was an insufficient deterrent.

But Peter Tam Chung-ho, the federation's chief executive, said the board's ruling was independent and fair.