'Drunk insurance' being sold to Chinese World Cup fans

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 June, 2014, 3:07am
UPDATED : Monday, 16 June, 2014, 11:03am

It may be called the beautiful game, but soccer can provide some ugly moments off the pitch when fans push themselves to the limit during the late-night endurance effort required of World Cup fever.

Running in from the sidelines are insurers with some innovative products that can provide night owl soccer fans with cover for illnesses and accidents that may befall them as they keep up with the World Cup action from Brazil.

With most of the matches being screened in China well past midnight, insurers have been quick to spot a new market and to come up with some catchy names for products costing as little as 3 yuan (HK$3.74).

"Night owl insurance", valid for 30 days, covers medical and emergency expenses related to acute respiratory infections and includes a death claim of 10,000 yuan. It is offered by online insurance firm Zhong An, which also provides "drunk insurance", covering the medical fees of over-enthusiastic fans suffering acute intoxication. Then there is "gourmet insurance", which protects soccer lovers who may be laid low with acute gastroenteritis after over-indulging while watching the matches.

For those who plan to hang out late, they may choose "football hooligan insurance", which is similar to accident insurance; claims can be made related to disability or death incurred, with part of the medical costs covered.

Drunk insurance has proved the most popular among the four, with 24 policies sold in more than one week through online platform Taobao, while just four football hooligan insurance policies were sold by Friday.

Xu Lin, a senior consultant at a life insurance firm, gave the insurers points for marketing amid the soccer frenzy, but said the new products were merely gimmicks. "The presentation may be different, but these products are actually accident or health insurance products," he said.

Wang Guojun, an insurance professor at the University of International Business and Economics, said this kind of product innovation should be encouraged.

However, Wang warned that insurers should make the insurance claim liability and conditions clear as these products were new to consumers. "In case any differences in understanding arise, it may cause disputes between the insurer and the policyholder, who may not know what is exactly covered," he said.

The gimmick might end up harming the insurer's reputation if such conflicts occurred, he said.

Cheering on the tournament, Chongqing-based Ancheng Property & Casualty Insurance launched its "World Cup pity insurance". Policyholders can win some points, namely Ji Fen Bao, if the team they support is eliminated at group stage matches. The policy, including accident insurance valid for 15 days, is priced at 8 yuan for a single match.

Ji Fen Bao are credits offered by Alibaba-owned online payment platform Alipay and can be exchanged for cash when using Alipay to settle deals at online shopping platforms like Taobao.

However, Wang said that given that the purpose of such policies was risk transferral, they were legal insurance products and not gambling instruments. Such innovative products were supervised under the insurance regulator, he said.

Online sales of World Cup pity insurance closed at midnight on Thursday, a few hours before the first match started. In more than a week, about 24 policies were sold.

Stay tuned for more details on policies for the quarter-finals, a customer service officer said, without confirming if similar products will be launched.