Insurance products: Disentangling the web

Written by Saikat Neogi | Updated: Jan 21 2014, 18:32pm hrs
Insurance productsAll web aggregators will now have to ensure security of a prospect?s confidential documents and put in place a system for recording and monitoring complaints.
All web aggregators will now have to ensure security of a prospects confidential documents and put in place a system for recording and monitoring complaints. They cannot display advertisements of any insurance product on their website or even display ratings, rankings or bestsellers of insurance products. The content of the aggregators website will have to be unbiased and factual in nature and the products classified according to their types, such as life term insurance, endowment, health, retirement, etc.

The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (Irda) has issued a gazette notification for web aggregators where it has mandated that the principal officer undergo 50 hours of training initially and 25 hours of renewal training at the end of every three years. Moreover, employees of aggregators involved in insurance solicitation will also have to complete 50 hours of theoretical and practical training from an institution recognised by Irda. All tele-callers will have to be employees on the rolls of the aggregators and have adequate training.

Aggregators will be required to have a net worth of at least R10 lakh. The annual licence fee will be R5,000. The insurer will pay R50,000 per year to the aggregator for displaying each product on the website and pay service charges at fixed rates for any other outsourcing work undertaken. Insurers, however, cannot pay any money to the aggregators for maintaining data base, infrastructure, training or any development communication. Aggregators will have to ensure that the leads and other data are transmitted to insurers using secured technologies like 128-bit encryption. They must use only RBI-licensed payment gateways for collection and transfer of premium to insurers if authorised by the insurer to collect it.

Insurers will have to get into an agreement with the aggregator to obtain leads and fix a time-frame for sharing the leads from prospects. The notification has underlined that aggregators will have to transmit the data of the prospect to the insurer within three days. Insurers will have to identify different data elements, which need to be shared like name and contact details.

The agreement between the insurer and the aggregator will also detail the time-frame for providing the premium and feature tables of the agreed products. The details will have to be updated periodically.

Moreover, the aggregators will have to use a lead management system a software used for recording, filtering, validating, etc which can record full details of visitors and their preferences.

Aggregators will also have to put in place a system for recording and monitoring complaints and accept them either by phone or in writing, and acknowledge them promptly.

All electronic records, books, documents, statements and contract notes will have to be maintained by the aggregator and retained for at least 10 years. The aggregator will have to ensure that a response letter is sent to the complainant on the resolution of the grievance and the latter is informed of further redressal procedures.

Analysts say the notification will bring uniformity in display of prices and key features of insurance products. It will also protect the interests of customers and rationalise the approach adopted by insurers and brokers in dealing with various websites that offer price comparisons and display key features of products.

The notification has also underlined that web aggregators cannot exclusively promote any particular product of an insurer. The price comparison chart of similar products will have to be displayed on the website so that customers can take informed decisions. The aggregators will have to display product features like the scope of cover, exclusions, deductibles, co-payments, loading or discount on premiums, add-on covers, etc. They also have to disclose the commission on the product if the prospect wants to know.

Most importantly, insurers cannot solicit non-single premium type of policies for an annualised premium over R50,000 over the telemarketing mode, which includes voice calls or SMSes. Even a single premium of over R50,000 cannot be solicited over the telemarketing mode. No insurer can sell a unit-linked insurance policy via the telemarketing mode.

If the policy is issued to a customer without the proposal in physical form, insurers will have to forward a verbal transcript of the voice/electronic record of the queries raised and answers given on the basis of which the policy has been underwritten along with the policy bond. The records of every call made which materialises into a policy will have to be transferred to the insurer within a month of conclusion of the sale.