Friday 31 July 2009

The Voice - Dear Consumer's Voice

Dear Consumer’s Voice #1

Hi! I just want to share with you my recent experience with an insurance company. On the 23rd June 2009 during the night thieves got away with my nice set of wheels for my car. I woke up to find the car supported with bricks.

Although I was worried I thought since I have been paying insurance it shouldn't be that bad. I immediately got in touch with Omega Insurance company. My first shock was that I was told I will have to pay a minimum excess of P3,000 the reason being that I am in a group scheme so I kind of cover for the expenses of all the other reckless drivers in the same scheme.

Though I found it unreasonable there wasn't much I could do I want my car fixed and also these are schemes negotiated for us by our administrators at work and until you experience what I did you don't usually know what they signed for. Their part of the bargain has not been forthcoming and as we speak a month down the line my car has not been fixed yet.

I have been dealing with one guy at Omega Insurance (they are brokers for Botswana Insurance Company), and another person at Botswana Insurance Company and every time I call both these companies it's always excuses after another. I have also started getting quotations from other companies because I intend to leave as soon as my car is fixed.

Please assist. What should I do now?

It is quite normal for an insurance company to have an “excess” when you have an insurance policy. That stops you from making minor claims for every little thing that goes wrong which firstly saves them some money but also allows them to keep the premiums down a little bit for the rest of us. The lesson though is to read any insurance policy thoroughly before you sign up for it. That way you might have known about the excess beforehand.

However I do think you deserve a slightly speedier response than you’ve received so far. The brokers are meant to operate on your behalf so I would apply some pressure on them to help you get this solved. I would also hassle BIC to get a move-on as well. If we can help we’ll get onto them as well for you.

Dear Consumer’s Voice #2

I terminated my lease for my flat at the end of May 2009. At the time of the termination I had not settled all my utilities. The electricity bill was on average P800 per month. I was usually only able to pay P200 – P300 per month. As such the arrears accumulated. By the time I wanted to move out of the flat I owed BPC P6,400 and Water Utilities P3,200.

I had an agreement with the landlord that my security deposit of P3,500 would pay off the water bill and make an arrangement with BPC to pay off the amount owed. However, BPC having already disconnected the electricity wanted me to pay the full amount before reconnecting the electricity for the next tenant. This amount is too steep for me to pay in one lump some. But I have so far been able to pay BPC P650, which is how much I can afford to pay them monthly.

A letter from the landlord on 18th July 2009 maintains that they have settled the bills with BPC and Water Utilities on advice from their legal team. Their legal team is however also “opening a file” for which they are charging the landlord P3,800 and my security deposit will pay for June's rent. I was not occupying the flat during that month. In fact the flat was under renovation the whole month for the next tenant to move in July. They state in their communication that I have to pay both water and electricity plus the P3,800 of their legal charges and other charges of P1,600. They say this comes to a total of P15,000 which has to be settled on 22nd July 2009.

I don’t understand why I have to pay their legal fees. Since my deposit was supposedly used to pay off the utilities as well as the P650 I have already paid BPC it should leave and outstanding balance of P5,450. Finally I don't know what the other charges of P1600 are for.

Please assist.

OK, let’s begin with the simple bits. From what you’ve said you shouldn’t have to pay rent for June, so long as you gave the landlord sufficient notice before you left. However, and unfortunately, all the other charges seem reasonable. I would check your lease though. Did it mention what would happen if you left with arrears? You are also clearly entitled to a breakdown of the “other charges” they want you to pay.

Meanwhile at least you are trying to face up to your obligations. I suggest you speak to the landlord and see if you can negotiate a more reasonable repayment schedule. Giving you only 4 days to clear a debt of that amount is completely unreasonable.

If you need any assistance, please let us know.

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