When payback time drags on

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 01 October, 2012, 1:34am

Reader Lee Soon-hwa had trouble with a claim on his Zurich travel insurance policy.

Lee had been on a 12-day trip to Italy with his wife and hired a car.

Lee scratched the front bumper of the car and was charged €400 (HK$4,000) by the rental company. He paid the charge on May 30.

As soon as he got back to Hong Kong on June 4, Lee contacted Zurich, as his Travelplus Gold  insurance policy included  hired vehicle excess coverage.

Zurich told him to fill in a claim form and provide all the details, including copies of the car rental contract, rental receipts, and receipts for the damage charges, which Lee did.

Zurich acknowledged his claim on June 8. After not hearing from Zurich for two weeks, Lee contacted the insurer’s claims department. He was told his claim had been referred to a loss adjuster company called  Toplis, and was given the firm’s contact details.

During the next 11 weeks, Lee repeatedly contacted Zurich and Toplis to find out why his claim had not been settled.
“Both parties were unresponsive despite many attempts at my end to understand and clarify the status of the claim,” says Lee. “It seemed apparent that both parties were adopting delay tactics.”

On August 14, Lee lodged an official complaint with Zurich about the handling of his claim. A supervisor at Toplis contacted him, and told him his case was “pending review”. Lee then heard nothing further, despite e-mails to both firms and leaving several voice messages.

At the end of August, three months after he first lodged his claim, Money Post got involved.

“The reason we decided to  go with Zurich Insurance was  the rental vehicle excess coverage  of up to HK$5,000,” Lee says. “The pledge in the brochure which says, ‘seven-day claims processing guaranteed’, is misleading.”

Two days after Money Post contacted Zurich on Lee’s behalf, he received an e-mail from Toplis saying it would pay him the ¤400 to settle the claim and close the case.

A Zurich spokeswoman told Money Post that the “seven-day claims processing guarantee” only begins once Zurich has all of the relevant documentation for a claim.

“The product brochure  says: ‘Zurich will settle your  claims within seven working  days, once we have all the  required documents,’”  the spokeswoman says.

“In this case, there were outstanding supporting documents the insured was not able to provide. The attempt by the loss adjustor to obtain the documents from the car rental company on behalf of the insured also, unfortunately, lengthened the process.

“We would like to thank the insured for his valuable comments, and will definitely take them into account to enhance our claim service quality."

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