Saturday, April 28, 2012

Bouquet to MAS for its quick response to feedback

I am encouraged by the Monetary Authority of Singapore's  response to feedback. It has replied to me each time I alerted them to something which they as regulators have oversight.

The latest was a complaint by Anne Wong Holloway over "impossible" conditions which AXA Insurance had set when she tried
to claim for expenses incurred as a result of her maid's hospitalisation after a stroke last month.

After I posted her story on April 19,  I alerted both AXA and the MAS.  AXA replied to me in 12 hours to say that it would be in contact directly with Anne.

Six days later,  the Consumer Issues Division of the MAS emailed me
to say that it "is aware of this matter and we have contacted the insurer to look into the issues raised by Ms Holloway."

I am not sure whether Anne had also informed the MAS at the same time, but I am happy that it has been pro-active in its response to our feedback.

Bouquet to MAS!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Eggs on FairPrice face

I was amused to read a letter in The Straits Times' Forum Page last week when a reader said that she had "noticed that various FairPrice outlets price their products differently."

Miss Chan Wan Wen had written in to the newspaper, together with photographs as proof, saying: "The Pasar eggs sold at the Tampines Mall outlet were priced at $1.75, while those at the Eastpoint Mall outlet were selling for $1.90.

"I noticed these prices on April 9 and 11 respectively. There was no offer in either case. I don't understand how the same product can have different prices. Aren't they all sold under FairPrice? Furthermore, Pasar is a house brand. This is not the first time I have noticed such price differences for the same products in FairPrice outlets.''

                     Tampines Mall outlet                         
                                   Eastpoint Mall outlet

The reason for my feeling the way I did was that last month, FairPrice had written a long email to me in response to my January posting about its recently-opened Scotts Square outlet. (See blog, FairPrice replies to my queries on its Scotts Square outlet )

I had commented that it was illogical of FairPrice, as a co-op, to pay such high rental for the outlet in the Orchard Road area when the majority of its customers were living outside that area.

In its reply, FairPrice maintained that it was still keeping to its core mission -- moderating prices of daily essntials for Singaporeans -- and what it was selling "are the same, uniformly priced products found in any other FairPrice store regardless of retail format or location."

Well, I guess what Miss Chan found out at its two outlets will now make the co-op more careful when it next makes a statement about product pricing.

And I hope what had happened was just a one-off mistake and not an indication of price discrimination to come.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Voices letter brings number plate issue to the fore again

A reader's letter in the Today newspaper on Saturday (April 22, 2012) jogged my memory over an issue which I had with the Land Authority of Singapore two years ago.

I had expressed my unhappiness in my blog on July 13, 2010, over my having to pay $1,300 for retaining my car number and using it on another used car that I had purchased.

I thought it was illogical and unfair when compared to the $100 fee which is charged on someone who retains his number and uses it on a new car.

I alerted the LTA about it and, after an exchange of email, it finally agreed to take my feedback "into consideration in our future review of the retention fees."

I had forgotten about the matter until a friend alerted me to yesterday's letter in the Voices page of Today as she had remembered about my unhappiness.

The writer, Mr Bok Hai Suan, has brought up the same issue which I had complained about two years ago.  He wants the LTA to explain "the objectives, relevance and effectiveness of the measure".

If my experience is anything to go by, the chances are he will be getting the same official reply from LTA.

Maybe it would be generous and tell him that his feedback would be taken into consideration in the next review.  Which means it is likely to be lost in the lallang, like mine did.

Mr Bok's letter in Today follows:

Here's an excessive car cost
Letter from Bok Hai Suan

THE high cost of car ownership here is partly regulatory-driven to control the growth and age of our vehicle population. This we can understand. But are there excessive costs that may be irrelevant, as similar measures are already in place?

Here is one: A car owner pays S$100 to retain the registration number of a vehicle to be de-registered immediately. He tops up S$1,200 if the number is used subsequently on an existing vehicle, but $0 if it is used on a new vehicle.

The cost difference is 1,200 per cent.

Similarly, a car owner pays S$100 to retain the number of an existing vehicle (which is not to be de-registered immediately) for a new vehicle, but S$1,300 for another existing vehicle.

It is clear that the cost difference lies in where the retained number is used: New or existing vehicle.

If this is a reflection of the amount of work involved, it is difficult to comprehend how it costs 12 to 13 times more to use a retained number on a new vehicle compared with an existing vehicle in this age of computers.

If this is to encourage car owners to switch to new vehicles, is not the Certificate of Entitlement, with its 10-year validity, already doing the job?

Could the relevant authority enlighten us on the objectives, relevance and effectiveness of this measure?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Battle with AXA: Anne wins Round 1

Twelve hours after I posted Anne Wong Holloway's complaint about how difficult it was to make an insurance claim for her helper's medical bills,AXA Insurance Customer Service Centre's manager, Ms Daphne Koh, emailed me to say that the company  would be "in contact with the insured directly with regards to the claim issue."

That sounded like good news to me.  Two hours later, Anne confirmed it through an email, saying that the company had sent her an Acceptance Note and Computation to settle a claim of more than $10,000.

She ended with this remark: "This just goes to show that these insurance companies ONLY pay up when the policyholder fights for his or her rights."

Don't I know.  I have had a few skirmishes with them and, believe me, it does take a lot of work and heart aches.

But Anne has not completely finished her battle with AXA.  There is still
an item which she is not satisfied with.  So she followed it up with this email:

"I have quickly checked the Computation and would like to enquire why the days of stay, from 15 March 2012 to 23rd March 2012 were not included in the days eligible for Wages Reimbursement?

"To the best of my knowledge and understanding, St Luke's Hospital is a hospital and recognized by MOH as such." 

Obviously, AXA is leaving out something which Anne feels should be included.

Let's see how Round 2 will end. Stay tuned.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

AXA claim conditions are 'impossible', says Anne

My friend Anne Wong Holloway's domestic helper suffered a stroke early last month and, after treatment here, went home on March 24.

As the helper was insured, Anne promptly made a claim from AXA Insurance for medical costs. But she is finding hurdles in the way.

She says AXA Insurance, "which seems to write the majority of domestic helper policies in Singapore via Anda Insurance (a broker), is baulking."

"It's 'nickle and diming' us and as a result has not even bothered to settle the major portion of the claim which is for the medical bills I have paid."

As expected, Anne has written to the insurance company to explain why it is setting "impossible conditions" for claims to be made.

Here's her letter:

"Dear Ms Foo,I have spoken to Ms Lee Kah Keow, nurse clinician at Tan Tock Seng Hospital. She has confirmed my reservation and fear that no doctor will be willing to certify that a stroke patient will not be able to work ever again, especially one who was discharged within a month of suffering the stroke.

"Therefore I would be a complete fool to apply to the Medical Records Office of TTSH ( and pay approximately $200 for one of their doctors to say that he is unable to certify beyond one year that my previous helper will not be able to work as a FDW.

"I have since read the 'fine print' and basically for some critical illnesses the AXA policy sets impossible conditions.

"In the case of a stroke, AXA requires 'evidence of permanent neurological damage confirmed by neurologist at least 6 weeks after the event.....

"For the amount that AXA would reimburse in re-hiring expenses (a few hundred dollars at most), it would be fiscal imprudence of the highest order to keep anyone in an institution where she would have rehabilitation therapy for 6 weeks as the stay and rehabilitation would amount to several thousand (a ballpark figure of SIN$8,600 per month at St Luke's Hospital).

"In this case, AXA also stipulates that the doctor must be a Singapore-registered physician or surgeon.

"If my FDW had had a heart attack (instead of a stroke), I would have to provide evidence of "left ventricular ejection fraction of less than 50% measured 3 months or more after the event.'

"Again this would have to be obtained from a Singapore-registered physician, from a Singapore hospital. The cost of a stay in the hospital and treatment would probably exceed the value of the entire policy!

"And all this for a few hundred dollars? It is abundantly clear to me that it is only when such catastrophic events arise that one discovers that some insurance policies are written solely for the benefit of the insurance companies and are not fair or just.''

Having had bad experiences with insurance companies myself, I would say: "Good luck, Anne! Get set for a long haul."