Friday, April 30, 2010
The promotion is to encourage fresh cash deposits. For every $5,000 cash deposited, a customer is entitled to an instant sure-win lucky draw. Prizes range from Old Chang Kee curry puffs to $20 Robinson's vouchers. There is also a final draw where depositors stand a chance to win $250,000.
But what caused a bit of puzzlement and unhappiness for Ling was when she discovered that the bank also imposed, for anything above $30,000 in cash deposit, a service fee of $5 for every $10,000.
"So I am puzzled -- for $5,000 you are rewarded but for anything above $30,000 you are penalised," Ling wrote to me.
After I sent her feedback to OCBC, it replied to explain that the "handling fee applies to bulk cash deposits only, as more time and resources are required to sort and count the notes and coins.
"This fee does not apply to non-cash deposits and we do encourage our customers to make deposits for larger amounts in the form of cheques or cashier’s orders."
But it was a big surprise that awaited Ling when she went to the bank to deposit some money today -- she was told by the staff that the service fee has been suspended until August when the "Happy Savings Draw" promotion ends.
When she asked for the reason, a bank officer told her it was the result of "clients' feedback".
A BOUQUET to OCBC for listening to its customers and taking action to put things right.
Monday, April 26, 2010
I hope these employers are doing it because they realise that their staff need to improve their linguistic skills and not because doing so would help them save on their foreign worker levy bills.
Our experience with the Domvs waitress -- a young Chinese national -- convinced me that many employers are still not placing sufficient attention to training.
In her case, she was not only poor in her spoken English but also in product knowledge.
For example, my friend Walter asked her what the soup of the day was. She took a few seconds to register, then, realising that she did not have the answer, replied that she would go to the kitchen to check.
If a fairly upmarket restaurant like Domvs has to depend on lowly-trained service staff, I am sure that service at many other food outlets that are also dependent on such foreign workers cannot be any better.
Friday, April 23, 2010
I wanted to know whether the industry was behaving like a cartel in a case concerning my wife who was told by her insurer that she would be penalised if she were to switch to another insurer after she had made an insurance claim.
The CCS verdict was a clear "No, not in this case". As I was lunching with friends, I did not have the opportunity to ask the CCS spokesman on the phone for an explanation. Maybe I should later, if only to enlighten myself on the criteria it had used to arrive at its decision.
The Royal Sun Alliance, through its brokers, had told me that my wife's no-claims bonus would be reduced from 50% to 20% if she switched insurer after the accident claim.
That was hard for me to swallow because her insurance had a no-claim bonus protection. But that, I discovered, meant very little after an accident because the insurer could jack up her premium, as in her case, without much explanation.
And the fact that she also could not switch insurer without losing a big chunk of her no-claim bonus made it even worse. Apparently, this is an industry practice which I thought amounted to a cartel.
The CCS obviously thinks otherwise. I am dying to listen to how it arrived at its verdict.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Ms Alice Ching, its Retail Manager for Store Operations, has written to him, saying: "We are concerned to learn of the unpleasant experience you had in our store. Please accept our sincere apologies for the inconvenience caused by the poor service of the Mitch&Marc promoter.
"We agree with you that frontline staff should be well equipped with product knowledge and be polite towards all our customers. We appreciate your feedback as we believe it is through feedback from customers that we are able to monitor and improve further on our service standards.
"We have emailed Mitch&Marc for information pertaining to the watch winders, and we are told that the mechanism, known as the mechanical Integrate Circuit Board, is made in Germany and their products are assembled in either Taiwan or Hong Kong. The Integrate Circuit Board controls the movement which determines the number of turns clockwise or anti-clockwise.
"We sincerely hope that this incident will not deter you from shopping at TANGS and we look forward to serving you on your next visit to Singapore."
That is definitely good PR from Tang's, something many of our service providers could learn from. A BOUQUET for Alice.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
However, long-suffering DBS customers like myself do not find it surprising as we have encountered pathetic service from the bank. If the bank were to check my responses to its telephone surveys that I had participated in, it would have known what I thought of its services.
Here are a couple of examples of the kind of service that I encountered...
* In recent months, I must have had at least three or four letters from the bank telling me that there has been a change in the relationship manager (RM)assigned to me. Each time it says the new manager would be in touch soon. Well, I am still waiting for that call!
* I made an appointment with my RM at Ngee Ann Building to clear up some matters. When I arrived at the appointed time, I was told to wait.
After a while, another RM appeared. She said my RM was busy and that she would take care of me. She was apparently new in her job and did not have a clue as to what I was saying!!!
If you are wondering why I am still banking with DBS after so much frustrations, the answer is GIRO. Almost all the bills that I pay each month are giro-ed. For me to cancel them and move over to another bank is a task that I dread.
Maybe I will wait a little longer for the new DBS chief's promise of better services to kick in before I make my to-move-or-not-to-move decision. I hope his is not a case of new-broom-sweeps-clean.
There are, however, questions that beg to be answered. For example, why is the bank doing all this only now, when it knew for some time that its customer services have not been up to par?
Could it be that its new chairman Peter Seah has been giving his feedback and doing the prodding?
Or, did the loss of a potential 40,000 new accounts when it failed in its attempt to retain the Children Development Accounts in 2008 has something to do with it?
Those of you with long memory would recall DBS being given all the POSB accounts on a platter in 1998 as the government wanted to make it a regional financial powerhouse.
Ten years hence, that dream remains a dream...
Monday, April 19, 2010
Shuyu had invited me over to meet her boss as he wanted to discuss my experience at the hospital's Endoscopy Centre where I had gone for a procedure last month and to see how it could improve its services.
I had complained in my blog about the hospital selling insurance to patients just before they went in for a procedure and how the registration clerk was inadequately trained to sell insurance.
Dr Loh came across as a gracious young man. He readily accepted my complaints while at the same time assuring me that the hospital was doing something about it.
But what surprised me was when he said that the hospital did not get a cent from the sale of insurance coverage. Apparently, the insurance company had made a proposal to Mount E and it was accepted because the hospital thought it could provide an additional service to its patients.
I had assumed --- wrongly --- that the hospital was marketing the insurance plan jointly with the insurer and was getting a cut out of every sale made.
I apologise for my mistake and would like to award a BOUQUET to Mount E for its attempt to improve its services and to Dr Loh for making the effort to clarify matters.
Friday, April 16, 2010
I called the hotline 1633, pressed a couple of buttons and got Hakim on the line. Told him that my "call waiting" function for the fixed line was not working.
After a quick identity check, he told me how to fix it -- turn off the modem and turn it on again after 10 seconds.
His patience was tested twice because each time he called back to check whether I had done it, I told him "no" as I was talking to my house guest.
I was glad he kept his cool.
But it was third time lucky for him --- and me. The "call waiting" is back in order now, and I am happy I got Hakim to help me.
Certainly a BOUQUET for him.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Here Shuyu's letter:
"Thanks for your valuable feedback on Mount Elizabeth Hospital's Endoscopy Centre and our sincere apologies for the unpleasant experience at the point of registration.
We are currently making improvements on our processes and service delivery.
If possible, our CEO of Mount Elizabeth Hospital would like to thank you and hear from you on how we can improve further. Appreciate it if you could contact me so that our CEO can meet you personally.
Group Corporate Communications Manager"
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
After I posted the story, "SGH took 68 days to complete a medical report", I sent this comment to Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan's blog:
"I have no doubt about the accuracy of the (Patient Satisfaction) survey. But my recent experience dealing with the Records Office at SGH has caused an unnecessary dent in my level of confidence in our public health services. My brother who is stricken with cancer, applied for a medical report on Jan 29, this year, to support his insurance claim. After a lot of angst, it was finally sent to the insurance company on April 7. It took a total of 68 days for the report to be completed. Surely this is not the Singapore system that I am used to! "
Today (April 13) SGH sent this reply to me:
"It takes about 4 weeks for completion of medical report from the time we receive the request. Time is needed for the doctor to extract the relevant information from the medical records, especially for patients with serious or complex conditions that require follow-ups by multiple doctors. We are improving the process and working towards a more efficient "One Patient. One Medical Record" system. We hope for your understanding."
After reading the SGH reply, I sent the following comment:
"SGH, I can understand if there is effort made to explain to the patient the reason for the delay. When there is none and the patient is kept in the dark all the time, how do you expect me to show understanding?
"Furthermore, you are asking me for my understanding when you have not proferred a single word of apology for the long delay. I will not embarass you further by discussing the explanation you have given me. I hope my brother's case is just an aberration and does not in any way change my belief that our health care services are still one of the best in the world. I am sorry I have to let it all out..."
Let's wait for SGH reply.
Monday, April 12, 2010
"This is an improvement of 2 percentage points as compared to 2008, thus reversing a dip experienced that year," it elaborates. "2009 also saw the highest percentage of patients (78%) who said they would recommend the services of public healthcare institutions to others. This reflects a high level of confidence in our public healthcare."
While I have no doubt that the survey is accurate and I would readily vouch for the high standard of our health care services, a recent experience has caused an unnecessary dent in my level of confidence.
My younger brother, who is currently undergoing treatment at the National Cancer Centre in SGH, applied for a medical report on January 29 this year at the Records Office. The report is to support his insurance claim and it cost him $86.67.
I was with my brother when he made the application. We were told that the Office would send the report directly to the insurance company when it was completed.
At that time I had absolutely no reason to think that this simple application would cause me so much time and needless angst.
About a month after the application, I asked my brother whether the report had been sent. He said he had checked with the Office during one of his treatments and was told that the form was still lying on the doctor's table.
As my brother's hearing was impaired because of the chemotherapy, I decided to check on his behalf. I spoke to two women at the Office over two days --- March 10 and 11 --- to find out what happened and to convey our frustration over the delay.
I said my brother and his family needed money as he had been unemployed for a long time.
The Office was not able to offer any explanation for the delay. I guess none of the lower-level staff would dare question the doctor.The bottom line: Anna, one of the women I spoke to and who sounded a little sympathetic, told me that she would attach a note of urgency to the application form.
I thought I had impressed upon her my brother's predicament and about how we felt, and that her initiative would help to resolve the matter soon.
How terribly wrong I was to have assumed that!!!!
Close to the end of March when I checked with my brother again whether the report had finally been sent, his answer was again "No".
By then I knew I was dealing with a bunch of people who either did not care or were so overwhelmed with paperwork that they just could not cope.
Whatever the reason for the delay, I had reached a stage when I was not interested. The reason is simple: We have been told, time and time again, that Singapore has a system that works, but this was not happening in my brother's case!!!
Here I was pleading with the Office to hurry up --- and they did not care a hoot.
On March 29, I spoke to Joy of the Records Office and demanded that something be done. When she realised that she could no longer give me the "standard replies", she said she would speak to the doctor's secretary and call me back.
She did as promised, and told me that the secretary said the report would definitely be ready by the end of the week.
Easter holiday over, I checked with Joy again on April 5. After giving her my brother's identification, she promptly went to her computer and, lo and behold, said those dreaded words AGAIN: "No, it is not ready!"
I reminded her what she had told me the week before. Then she said: "OK, I will check with the doctor's secretary and call you back."
She did, and this time, she chirped: "I got good news for you. The report is ready but it has to be signed by the head of department before it is sent to our Office for despatch."
She said it would take a day or two for that to be done, adding that she would call to inform me when the report was finally sent to the insurance company.
When she did not call, I checked with the Office to find out what had happened. Anna, her colleague, told me: "Oh, she was on leave yesterday."
When Joy finally called me, she said the report was sent to Great Eastern Life Assurance on April 7 --- 68 days after the application was lodged.
I decided to blog this as I felt that this was an aberration in our system that had to be brought to the notice of the authorities and action taken to correct it.
Despite all the trouble that we had gone through, I must declare that I still believe that, overall, our health care services are right up there.
However, it has to a BOO-QUET to the doctor in charge.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
"I was having lunch with some newsmakers and colleagues at Kuriya Penthouse at Orchard Central about a month ago. We ordered the seasonal set which had two options for the main course. The options were sushi or Japanese claypot rice. Since none of us had tried the latter, we picked the Japanese claypot rice as our main course.
"When the time came for the main course to be served, the captain came and said that since the restaurant has just received a fresh shipment of fish, it was serving us sushi for our main course instead. He and a waiter proceeded to serve us the sushi.
"We were really disappointed that the captain didn't have the courtesy to inform us of the change and seek our opinion first. We also noticed that the neighbouring table was served its order of Japanese claypot rice.
"To make matters worse, the waiter accidentally tilted the plate of sushi while serving my colleague and the sushi landed on my colleague's lap."
She is giving a BOO-QUET to Kuriya Penthouse!
Thursday, April 8, 2010
Here's her story...
"All credit card companies should take a leaf out of Amex's book. Case in point: I was one of the unfortunate Tom Jones concert-goers. The first time it was cancelled, we were all wondering what happened and I decided to call the credit card company to alert them.
"I usually pay by Amex and automatically called the concierge to tell them I wasn't going pay this bill as the concert was cancelled. They said don't worry, we will put a note and we will dispute it for you.
"But they said they weren't able to find a charge from Sistic yet....it was then that I realised I had signed with my UOB Master instead as Sistic doesnt take Amex.
"So I called UOB's card centre and it was hell....
Guy on phone said: Sorry you have to take it up with Sistic we can't do anything.
Me: But the concert is cancelled and I am disputing this charge. Can you just put a note and send me a dispute form?
Guy: No. you will need to check with Sistic.
I insisted then that he send me a dispute form nonetheless and he grudgingly said ok.
Bottomline: UOB sucks (and for that matter so do Citibank and DBS but that's another story)."
Apart from giving UOB a BOO-QUET, I also have a question: why, why and why are so many bank officials so lacking in service skills???
***LATEST: UOB has acknowledged the feedback.
"We see so much talk about service quality in the newspapers and even on the internet. Recently, I came across a blog http://boo-n-bouquet.blogspot.com that discusses service in Singapore.
"The good service establishments get bouquets and the bad ones get boos. haha so cute right? It’s heart warming to see people taking interest in the issue and starting their own blogs. Keep at it people!"
"I'm at the budget terminal now on the way to Macau for a short holiday.
Service at the budget terminal is really bad.
- Check in at Tiger Airways Counter...no smile, no eye contact.
- McDonalds...totally unlike their adverts.
- immigration...the officer gave me the evil eye coz I chose to use the counter rather than the auto machines. The auto machines had a long queue.
- baggage checks...cisco guards were shouting at the passengers to show their boarding passes and put their handphones in their bags. I could hear him and i was at the back of the queue.
- duty free...they were talking among themselves and not once to me. The cashier passes my ATM card back to me by almost slamming it on the counter.
Maybe you can include this in your blog...just because I'm travelling by budget & its 4am in the morning doesn't mean service has to be this bad. Haha.
Although this is only my 2nd time flying through the budget terminal, I don't remember it being this bad...or maybe I'm just more aware now after reading yr blog. :)"
My advice: I guess you just have to grin and bear with it if you want to fly direct to Macau...until of course the Changi airport authority or whoever else is in charge wakes up (early enough to take notice) and acts.
In the meantime, it has to be BOO-QUET for that terminal.
He commented: "I agree with you that your insurers did a lousy job in your case in settling the third party claim. I suppose that in their anxiety to save legal costs (if the claim were disputed unsuccessfully) they took what they considered the most economical option, without investigating thoroughly.
"This, in my view, is lacking in professionalism and to some extent is a sad reflection of the state of affairs in the industry.
"From my own past experience, most Claims personnel have no legal training and they are there to manage as best as they could, often arriving at decisions subjectively with the sole objective of saving money for the company.
"Only in major cases where the claim amounts run into tens of thousands of dollars would their lawyers be called in or the top management being involved.
"On the subject of premium increase ,I agree with you too that there is no transparency. During my days, there was what was called a Tariff (which all insurers are obliged to use) and although this was a cartel, motorists at least knew exactly what basic premium they had to pay and if there were premium 'loadings'' for poor claims experience etc at least they knew exactly too what loading was demanded.
"If they didn't like it they could shop around for another insurer who might be prepared to charge a lower premium loading ( the basic premium always remaining unchanged).
"In today's free market environment,which supposedly encourages better competition for consumers' benefit, no one knows exactly how premiums are arrived at from one insurer to the next. Hence, as you've concluded there's no transparency absolutely!
"As for the authorities, you can forget about their taking action to regulate insurers insofar as premium charges are concerned. The main supervisory role of MAS nowadays is to supervise the financial health of insurers and professional misconduct.
"Where premiums are concerned it is the avowed policy of the government to allow market forces to reign supreme. This is supposed to be, like many other things, good for the consumers. They cannot turn the clock back!
"The fact that year in year out the motor insurance industry shows underwriting losses (audited figures) does not suggest that insurers on the whole are having an easy time.
"Compare this to the days when motor insurance premium was Tariffed. The Tariff rates were implicitly approved by the authorities and any general increase or changes to the rating had to be approved by the authorities, and such increases had to be justified with statistics from the industry.
"I suppose if the general body of motorists can make out a case to the authorities, of profiteering by insurers or cartelling, this might persuade them to do something."
Those are indeed words of wisdom from one who had seen how the industry operated from the inside.
I hope those who have a genuine interest in fair play for not just the policy-holders but also the players in the insurance industry would heed his words and take the necessary action.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
"Last Sunday (April 4), while waiting in the Singapore Airlines' first class lounge at T3, i was shocked to overhear the bartender condemning Australians out of hand to two passengers, apparently Singaporeans.
"He said something like: "Australians don't like to work, especially on weekends. They prefer to booze."
"Being an Australian citizen, I chirped in: "That's not true at all. I live there and I know for sure they work as hard, if not harder than Singaporeans."
"But my point is this: the Singapore Airlines staff should never say such a thing within earshot of other passengers, some of whom may well be Australians who would definitely be offended.
"Singapore Airlines should remind its staff not to badmouth other people and countries, especially those it flies to.
"Boo to that bartender, whom i noticed, closed his counter a good 5 minutes before official closing time!
"Boo, too, to the GST refund counter at T3.
"While queuing for my refund, I noticed there was only one girl manning the counter. And there were at least 15 people waiting in line. There was no attempt to speed things up, nor call for help from another colleague. I waited for at least 12 minutes before I was served.
"Imagine the 10 or 12 others behind me! Would they miss their flight?
"But bouquets to the buggy driver who picked me and another passenger up from the lounge for the long ride to the gates. He was super efficient, coming up to get us well before time.
"Bouquets too, to the police officers and staff manning the gates. Super efficient, as always!"
Mr Dzuraimi Mohamad Taib, Singapore Airlines' Customer Affairs Manager has responded to the feedback. In an email, he said:
"Thank you for your feedback on 8 April regarding Mr Peter Ong’s bad
experience at the SilverKris First Class lounge on 4 April.
"We are sorry to learn about the bartender’s inappropriate remarks. May I assure you that we have highlighted this to the Manager Premium Passenger Services for counseling of the staff concerned."
Monday, April 5, 2010
Apart from touching base with his son, grandson and other family members, he couldn't resist doing a bit of shopping. So he went to Tang's on Sunday (April 4) to see whether he could part with some of his money.
His email to me started like this: "I am appalled at the lack of knowledge of many sales assistants in Singapore, particularly those at the big department stores."
Then he went on to give an example: "Yesterday, Sunday april 4, I was at Tang's when I saw an automatic watch winder. Being a watch collector, I wanted to find out more about the winders which are supposed to keep your automatic watches going without you having to wear them.
"When I asked the girl manning the counter selling Mitch & Marc watch winders where the movement was from, she said "Australia".
"Indeed, Mitch & Marc is an Australian brand of fashion goods, but it was obvious that she did not undertsand the difference between the brand and the internal workings of the winder. Thereupon, I explained to her what I wanted to know. And again she said "Australia".
"I said: "I know this is an Australian brand. I want to know exactly where the mechanism for the winder is from."
"She just did not know. Worse still, there was no attempt whatsoever to find out.
"Result? I walked away.
"Each of these automatic winders costs anything from $1,000 to several thousand dollars. If Tang's wants to sell any of them, they should teach their staff to answer questions customers like me may have.
"Contrast this to sales assistants in Australia where I live, or Europe or the USA where your every question is answered happily and knowledgeably and you begin to understand how frustrating it is to shop in Singapore."
As far as I know, Tang's is reputed to have a team of helpful and friendly sales staff. However, my friend Peter's experience shows that upgrading is clearly needed.
In a knowledge-based society, customers have become more demanding in their quest for technical details. On their part, retail personnel and management must respond urgently --- or simply fade away.
Her story: "OCBC recently launched a Happy Savings Draw to encourage fresh cash deposits. For every $5,000 cash deposit over the counter you are entitled to an instant sure-win lucky draw. Among the prizes are Old Chang Kee Curry puffs, $5 Popular vouchers and $20 Robinson vouchers plus a final draw where depositors stand a chance to win $250,000.
"Fair enough - these are some perks to encourage savings and to reward their customers for banking with them.
"Next, from April 1, it started to implement a service charge whereby from anything above $30k, there is a fee of $5 for every $10k deposited or part thereof over the counter. So I am puzzled -- for $5k you are rewarded but for anything above $30k you are penalised.
"In the end, what it really means is that we are paying for our own curry puffs, Popular vouchers and Robinson's vouchers.
"OCBC, please tell us exactly what you want -- to save with your bank or not to?"
*LATEST ... OCBC replies:
We refer to your posting regarding the S$5 handling fee that OCBC Bank levies for deposits of more than S$30,000, made at our branches.
We wish to clarify that the handling fee applies to bulk cash deposits only, as more time and resources are required to sort and count the notes and coins.
This fee does not apply to non-cash deposits and we do encourage our customers to make deposits for larger amounts in the form of cheques or cashier’s orders.
Thank you for your support and interest in OCBC Bank. Indeed, our Happy Savings Draw is designed to encourage Singaporeans to save and be rewarded for their efforts. We invite you to visit www.ocbc.com/HappySavings to check out the latest Happy Savings activities.
Ms Chng Bee Leng
Saturday, April 3, 2010
I am also heartened by the kind comments that I have received from my friends. Here are three of them:
"I think it is a great idea. I first mooted this idea as a weekly page or even column, to the ST. It fell on deaf ears. So I'm so glad u have decided to start this blog." --- May Sng.
"Heard about your blog and spent part of the weekend reading it...impressive! am glad someone is taking shoddy Singapore service staff to task." --- Carl Skadian.
"Great stuff! Just read your blog. I'm impressed with the responses you've been receiving. Now that's journalism in action! Will certainly send you any encounters of good and bad service." --- Lulin Reutens.
Now that I have sufficiently patted myself on the back :), I will move on to my quarterly reporting.
Top of my list for BOUQUET awards : Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan/Ministry of Health. I am so impressed with their swift and to-the-point responses to my comments and questions that I am encouraged to post more stuff on their blog. Mr Khaw has indeed set a very high standard for his colleagues in the other ministries to emulate.
Others who deserve a BOUQUET (not in any particular order) are:
* NTUC FairPrice (responded promptly and positively)
* ICA (outstanding service)
* Volkswagen (excellent service)
* Canon (prompt and positive response)
* Al Forno Italian Restaurant (prompt response)
* SingPost (prompt response and made changes)
* Samsung (excellent service)
* Shabu Shabu Gen (excellent service)
* Novita (good service)
* NUH Aesthestic Plastic Surgery Centre (excellent service)
* Norton (good service).
I must qualify here that some of those who were the recipients of our complaints are getting a bouquet now because they responded promptly to our feedback . I am assuming that they have learnt their lesson and have taken steps to improve their service.
The following are the BOO-QUET recipients:
* Trans Cab (no response to feedback);
* Housing Board (no response to feedback);
* Nokia (responded but problem not fully resolved);
* FCUK (replacement shirt had colour run as well);
* Royal Sun Alliance (lack of courtesy);
* StarHub (no response to feedback);
* Shangri-La Bangkok (no response to feedback).
Thank you, everyone, for contributing. And please remember to pay particular attention to the good service that you also encounter and give your feedback.
Thursday, April 1, 2010
He says: "Notice how they charge you a premium for X $ for the value of your car which is based on market price."
"So what is the market value in dollars and cents that determines the premium?" he asks.
Gilbert makes a valid point. And the answer is very simple: Only the insurer knows what the market value is and he decides. The car owner has no say...absolutely.
Long gone are the days when you can determine the value of your car and have it insured accordingly.
If I remember correctly, the motor insurance industry did away with that because it affected the premiums that they could collect.
This was how it used to work: for example, if you valued your car at $100,000, you would pay the premium based on that amount. The following year, upon renewal, you could lower the value to, say, $80,000 because of depreciation. That way, your premium was reduced as you were insuring it for a smaller amount.
Then, lo and behold, the insurers suddenly started using the "market value" method of insuring our vehicles. The change, sadly, did not give rise to any public debate or cause a stir.
Personally, I do not have a problem with this "new" method if the insurers could state categorically the market value of our cars at the point of policy renewal.
This is only fair because, by not doing so, your fate is left totally in the hands of the insurers should there be a claim.
Also, with knowledge of the proposed insured value, one could have an idea whether one is paying a reasonable premium by shopping around for quotes from other insurers.
Short of being pressured by the authorities, it is highly unlikely that our motor industry would return to the old method of insuring our vehicles.
Consider this: If insurers can insure a house against fire for a fixed sum of money, I see no reason why they cannot do the same for vehicles. Isn't it quite obvious there is something terribly wrong?
Why should anyone be happy if he has to pay more in premium each year knowing full well that the value of his asset has gone down in value???
But do not for one moment think that having this protection in your policy means that your premium will stay intact or, at most, increase by a minimal amount, particularly after you have been involved in an accident that may not be totally your fault.
When you are in such a situation, may God help you, because your fate is really in the hands of your insurance company and there is very little you can do about it.
I was in that kind of a dilemma in February this year when my wife's car insurance came up for renewal. The insurer, Royal and Sun Alliance (yes, it is same company), jacked up the premium by more than 200 per cent, justifying it by saying that it had paid out more than $9,000 for "own damage" and had reserved another $9000-plus for third party damage.
I was puzzled by the logic of the increase, so I made an appeal to RSA on two grounds. My email said:
"Firstly, my wife's insurance policy had a no-claim bonus protection. However, with the proposed huge increase in premium, RSA has in fact made a mockery of this protection. What's the point of paying for this protection when the company can wily nily do whatever it wants in terms of premium?
"Secondly, RSA has slapped on the extra premium without giving due consideration to the circumstances of her accident. She was not at fault. The least RSA could have done for its client was to first establish which party was liable instead of assuming that she was to blame and be made to pay the penalty."
The appeal succeeded in bringing down the premium by a few hundred dollars but it was still an increase of more than 100%. There was also a condition attached in the new proposal -- my wife could not switch insurance cover to another company since she had already made a claim. But if she did, her NCB would be reduced to just 20%.
That seems like a cartel at work. I wonder what the Competition Commission of Singapore would say if they knew about it. I will certainly ask them.
As the renewal deadline drew nearer, my wife had no choice but to agree to the new proposal. To help reduce the premium amount further, I advised her to drop her coverage for young drivers and usage of own workshop in the event of an accident.
Moral of the story? The NCB protection coverage will not stop your premiums from skyrocketing because the insurers now have it both ways -- they collect premiums for NCB protection and if you are unfortunate to meet with an accident, they just push up your premiums sky-high without a care about your NCB protection. Sigh!
BOO-QUET for the motor insurance industry!!!