Sunday Read: Momentum rocked by fresh allegations of 'unethical' practices

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After a year that saw Momentum plunged into an imbroglio for initially failing to pay a widow out from her slain husband’s policy, the company has been rocked by fresh accusations of unethical practices by another customer.

This time, Durban resident Suretha Beeputh told Fin24 that her mother, who is a client of Momentum, received a notification of premium arrears of up to R1457.57 from the insurer for a policy she never subscribed to.

The matter is set to be the subject of a court case.

Beeputh spoke to Fin24 on behalf of her mother, the Momentum client, Sumintra Beeputh.

Escalation

Sumintra Beeputh is currently seeking legal relief and Momentum agreed earlier this month to escalate the matter.

Fin24 has seen an email exchange between Beeputh and Momentum Life client care manager Marius Kock, dating back to 2014. The email correspondence was supplied to Fin24 by Sumintra Beeputh.

Days after the last email in that thread, Momentum announced that it would be paying out a death benefit to the widow of Durban man Nathan Ganas, who made headlines in 2018 when, following a public outcry, Momentum did an about-turn on its refusal to pay out. The insurer ultimately said it would reimburse the life insurance premiums of Ganas, whose payout it had rejected on the basis that he failed to disclose an existing health condition.

Momentum said late in April 2019 that it had, since the Ganas outcry, paid out millions of rands to families of murdered policy holders whose claims were initially rejected.

Confusion 

In this latest case, Sumintra Beeputh signed up for a policy with Momentum in 2007. 

According to her daughter, Suretha, her mother's product at Momentum had been altered without her knowledge, and the company later accused her of being in arrears for that product - which jeopardised her good standing on her existing cover, and ultimately her benefits.

An alteration form given to Sumintra Beeputh and shared with Fin24 dates the application for a new product as of March 2014.

Suretha told Fin24 that Momentum not only demanded payment from her mother for the arrears but cancelled her whole pre-existing policy, all while continuing to collect premiums from her account.

"Momentum removed my CPI in 2014 and did not rectify the same. According to Momentum it's okay that that broker admitted and apologised to his error. That's it. No further remedy was made available," said Sumintra Beeputh.

Suretha Beeputh sent Fin24 a letter of demand in which she alleged that Momentum put her mother onto a policy which she wanted no part of and penalised her other offerings as a result of her non-payment for a product she never asked for.

"Momentum misrepresented to her repeatedly that there were savings existing as part of her policy, then advised her that they did not exist without any justification or reasons. They only advised her of the cancellation when she contacted them about payment of her cashback," she said.

Suretha Beeputh said Momentum continued accepting payments from her mother after they had cancelled the policy, all while the client was not aware the policy was cancelled.

"Momentum has dismissed the complaint made to them and has made no compensation for their various mistakes and misrepresentations. They have not taken this issue seriously and refuse to return any of her wasted premiums or even her cash back policy," said Beeputh in an email.

'Ms Beeputh enjoyed cover'

Kock told Fin24 that Momentum received a letter of demand on January 25, 2019. He said the fact that the financial planner submitted that the policy had a savings benefit needed to be interpreted and evaluated holistically and in the correct framework.

"The fact that we communicated unqualified information is regrettable, but it will not be able to procure the refund of all premiums as you enjoyed cover and benefits in exchange for the payment of a monthly premium," said Kock.

Kock said the statement from Beeputh, that changes to the policy were made without her knowledge, was countered by Momentum’s records that indicate that she signed a request to make these specific changes to the policy. 

"It is important to keep in mind that Ms Beeputh enjoyed the benefits of risk cover from when the policy started in 2007 up until the time that she stopped paying the premium in September 2017 – which caused the policy to lapse," Kock said.

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