We value customer feedback and enjoy the opportunity to clear up any issues, address bad service and help our customers. We are truly saddened to hear about Ms. Ramarumo’s personal circumstances but are confident that we have failed in no way to deliver on our promises. It is unfortunate that a journalist appears to have consciously ignored case particulars and misrepresented the detailed facts in the Sowetan newspaper. The numerous gross inaccuracies are addressed in detail below.
We also value the services provided by portals such as HelloPeter, which acts as an invaluable source of customer feedback. This in turn helps us to address bad service as part of our drive for customer service excellence. We strive to offer only exceptional service and we stand by our innovative and affordable insurance products. We go to great lengths to provide cheap cover, that grows over time (CoverGROW) for those who may not be able to afford comprehensive cover. We believe in complete transparency, which is why our TV advertisements, website and policy documentation explicitly show that the Prime Motor CoverGROW policy is not a comprehensive insurance policy, and that its value grows over time with each premium payment.
On 29 February 2016 and 7 March 2016, respectively, The Sowetan newspaper published two articles about Prime Meridian Direct (“PMD”) and its Motor CoverGROW insurance policy. The articles were entitled “Client feels cheated by motor insurance” and appeared under Sowetan consumer journalist Thuli Zungu’s “Consumer Line” column. We received Ms. Zungu’s initial enquiry on 24 February 2016 and provided her with a comprehensive response by Friday, 26 February 2016. She nonetheless published her first article on Monday 29 February 2016 without any reference to the information provided to her, claiming that she had failed to receive our email and so published her story before obtaining the facts from PMD. Following publication of the article on 29 February 2016, PMD wrote the following e-mail to Ms Zungu at the Sowetan:
Good day Ms. Zungu,
Thank you for your note below.
We understand that on the 29th of February, 2016 you published an article regarding Mrs. Ramarumo’s claim. It is unfortunate that we were not afforded the courtesy of an opportunity to comment on a draft version of the article prior to its publication. Had we been afforded this opportunity, we might have been in a position to alert you to the substantial inaccuracies contained therein and which have inevitably and quite unnecessarily damaged the PMD brand.
Moreover, we are saddened that not a single part of our detailed response provided to you on the 26th of February appears to have been referred to or even taken into account in your article. The contents of this email fully addressed all of your original questions as well as the first two in your mail of yesterday below. (Please see repeat responses alongside each.)
Should you decide to write further on the subject we would be grateful for the opportunity to provide comment on factual accuracy before publication.
Prime Meridian Direct
Subsequently, a second article again entitled “Client feels cheated by motor insurance” was published on Monday, 07 March 2016, wherein again Ms. Zungu appears to have knowingly and deliberately published additional inaccuracies and mistruths about PMD, the Prime Motor CoverGROW policy and our marketing materials. On 13 March 2016, the second of the two published articles was digitally republished on the Sowetan Live website, again under Thuli Zungu’s name. The article can be reached at this link.
The information contained in the Sowetan articles is factually inaccurate and grossly misleading. Despite PMD’s concerted efforts in providing complete, ascertainably factual and contextually correct information to the Sowetan newspaper in response to their enquiry, the Sowetan articles have ignored our official responses and appear to have been deliberately published with a view to harming PMD’s brand. Below is a summary of the most significant inaccuracies contained within the articles followed by the official responses provided by PMD prior to publication of the articles:
Article extract 1:
The PMD policy “only pays an equivalent amount of the premiums a consumer paid towards his or her cover.”
Official PMD response:
“The Prime Motor CoverGROW policy provides a benefit that increases each month at a rate shown in the policy document. The policy pays the benefits that have accumulated (“grown”) as at the date of claim. In the case of Mr Macingwane, the accumulated benefit totalled R8,000 at the time of claim. No offer was made to refund premiums, an amount that would have been very much less.”
Article extract 2:
“In fact, Prime Meridian only entertains claims if they had received at least six premiums and photos of the consumer's car to validate the contract.”
Official PMD response:
This is entirely incorrect reporting: Cover under PMD’s policy commences immediately upon receipt of photos. When they are not received, cover commences after 6 premiums, even if pre-existing damage has not been declared. The Sowetan was advised in writing as follows but inexplicably failed to report these facts:
“Unlike most traditional motor insurance policies, [the Prime Motor CoverGROW policy] does not require the delivery of the vehicle to a testing station for pre-inspection prior to commencement of cover. This is one of the unique features that makes the product considerably more accessible and saves our clients the inconvenience and expense of what is often seen as an onerous and bothersome nuisance.
As a result of making it easier in this way, we are exposed to a higher than usual degree of risk. To address this risk, the product employs several important mechanisms to help mitigate the inherent anti-selection and fraud possibilities.
These mechanisms are applied inter alia by providing the client with two options regarding the commencement of cover:
1. The submission of photographs of the vehicle and the payment of one monthly premium: OR
2. The payment of six consecutive monthly premiums by debit order when billed.
Among other things, the purpose of this requirement is to –
Article extract 3:
“This explains why Prime Meridian rejected Morakane Ramarumo's claim after her car was damaged in an accident two months ago.”
Ms. Zungu acknowledged in the article that Ms. Ramarumo was unwilling to provide photographs of her vehicle prior to the accident despite being twice requested to do so.
Article extract 4:
“She said she responded to a TV advert in which Prime Meridian offered a comprehensive cover at a premium of R149 per month for a comprehensive cover.”
Official PMD response:
“Our television advertisements are explicit and meticulously detail the specific nature and benefits of PMD’s products. Moreover, our advertisements go to great lengths to explain to consumers that PMD is not a “comprehensive” motor insurer including the fact that all of our adverts display the following onscreen information throughout their flighting: “PRIME MOTORTHRIFT / PRIME MOTOR COVERGROW is not a comprehensive motor insurance policy. Terms and conditions apply.” This information is further expanded upon in the official tele-scripting that follows an enquiry, together with the very clear and specific policy documentation then emailed to policyholders.
Article extract 5:
“At the time of publication last Monday, Prime Meridian had offered to respond after they had thoroughly investigated her matter.” – PMD responded throughout the enquiry as demonstrated above.
Article extract 6:
“Hellopeter.com, a portal which allows consumers to complain and criticise any supplier of bad service, has about 366 complaints against this insurance company and only 66 of them are happy. Most of them complain about delays in processing claims paying panel beaters while others complain about rejection of claims based on non-supply of photos.”
Official PMD response:
“The nature of Hellopeter.com is a public platform for consumers to complain. Consequently, it is not uncommon for most companies to have far more complaints than compliments. Our experience has been that even the most satisfied customers seldom are willing to take the time to compliment companies on their products or service – good service is simply expected. Moreover, one needs to evaluate the volume of complaints relative to the number of policyholders before drawing conclusions. Therefore, to have had as many as 66 compliments in the past 6 months is indeed pleasing.”
We respect the job which the Sowetan Newspaper and its website do for South African consumers. Whilst we have always known that consumer journalists by their very nature show a natural bias toward the plight of consumers and understandably feel compelled to tell their story, we have also always assumed that such journalists would want to first establish the facts before reaching any conclusions and reporting on their findings. This certainly has not been our recent experience with the Sowetan Newspaper.
Nonetheless, we wish to reassure all of our policyholders that they can comfortably ignore the recent Sowetan articles as they are grossly deceptive and devoid of accuracy. PMD prides itself on its range of innovative and highly affordable motor insurance products. We have created solutions and viable alternatives to consumers where once there were none.
Take for example our Prime Motor CoverGROW policy. You can insure any car from as little as R149 per month. That’s unheard of for a car insurance solution in South Africa. What makes this policy special is that it doesn’t take the value of your vehicle into account in its pricing, but rather provides a set level of cover that grows and grows each month. Our top plan, for example, costs just R399 per month, and your cover will grow to nearly R50,000 in just one year, and will continue to grow all the way up to the value of your car. That’s incredible value for someone who otherwise would have opted to not insure his or her car at all. What’s more, the premiums are fixed...they never ever increase. Who else is offering that kind of deal?
Alternatively, our Prime MotorTHRIFT policy offers incredible all-round protection with full indemnity for total loss scenarios like theft, hijacking and accidental write-off, and growing cover for smaller risk events like fender benders. This is not to mention the immediate three benefits and several others.
Should you have any concerns or wish to obtain the full facts, we urge you to contact PMD directly or telephonically at 011 745 7800, or please visit the above links where all policy details are set out in detail and in easy-to-understand language.Disclaimer