Travel insurance, customer 'service' staffers and trust

Wendy Knowler’s 'watch-outs of the week'

06 May 2022 - 15:00
By Wendy Knowler
Those heading into their mid-70s who wish to travel should check various travel insurance offerings and compare the cut-off ages to avoid getting caught out. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/TRANIKOV STUDIO Those heading into their mid-70s who wish to travel should check various travel insurance offerings and compare the cut-off ages to avoid getting caught out. Stock photo.

In this weekly segment of bite-sized chunks of useful information, consumer journalist Wendy Knowler summarises news you can use:

Consumer trust at an all-time low — and rightly so

A number of widely reported breaches of our personal information — Experian and TransUnion, for starters — has many consumers on high alert for fraudulent approaches of the financial kind.

Helene forwarded me an e-mail she’d received, purportedly from the SA Fraud Prevention Service (SAFPS).

“I have no idea what it is about,” she said. “It feels like a scam to me. I would greatly appreciate it if you have any information on this company.”

The SAFPS is a non-profit company which provides a shared database to member organisations as well as offering the public a means of protecting themselves against impersonation and identity theft.

The e-mail Helene received states: “The SAFPS has issued the attached letter for your protection. It serves to verify your identity when you apply for credit or other services. The letter must accompany any application for a loan or to open an account at one of our members.”

I checked with SAFPS CEO Manie van Schalkwyk who confirmed the e-mail's authenticity.

“[Helene] was loaded by Absa when that bank had their data breach [first revealed in November 2020],” he said.

“She received the letter only now, but was listed by Absa some time ago. Due to an IT issue on our side the letters did not go out at the time of listing,” Van Schalkwyk said.

“When we discovered that we decided to send the letters, though it was much later, for the sake of transparency.”

When an organisation realises its customers’ information has been compromised it has the option of “loading” their information onto the SAFPS database to give them protection from fraudsters using their information to open accounts or attempting to gain access to their bank accounts.

But it’s a good idea to be highly distrustful of any unsolicited e-mail, SMS, WhatsApp or call you get about your personal information and to check its authenticity. That’s especially true if you are asked to reveal any key numbers — bank account passwords, OTPs, credit card CVV number, et cetera. Better safe than sorry!

That free travel insurance has an age limit

Bruna was outraged to discover that the free travel insurance she always got when she paid for her overseas trips with her Absa credit card no longer applies because she’s reached the age of 74.

And Shirley, an 87-year-old pensioner who wanted to make her annual trip to Ireland to stay with family for her usual three months, also hit a snag with her travel insurance.

“I have usually got travel insurance through my Standard Bank card via AIG who have been absolutely marvellous, but they don’t insure ‘oldies’ after 84,” she toId me.

After much investigation she discovered that Bryte Insurance would provide her with travel insurance, at a rate of R300 a day, and only for one month — a total cost of R9,000. She departs on her much-shortened trip next month.

Old Mutual’s Travelsure confirmed that it only provides travel insurance to travellers up to the age of 80.

But Discovery Insure provides some cover to travellers up to the age of 100, provided the air tickets are paid for with a Discovery Bank card.

If you regularly travel overseas and you’re heading into your mid-70s, it’s a good idea to compare the travel insurance offerings, both those provided free of charge thanks to various bank and insurer partnerships and the paid-for ones, as the age cut-offs vary significantly.

Customer 'service' staffers who let the side down

This is a watch-out for corporates who have “customer care” divisions. Best you monitor the way your staff is engaging with your customers because they could well be sabotaging your brand.

Refiloe’s experience with Johnson & Johnson’s “customer service” team members was jaw-droppingly appalling. So much so that she shared it with me.

“I am stunned by the nonchalant ‘so what?’ attitude displayed by Johnson & Johnson regarding a product out of stock,” she wrote.

Having been unable to find her tampon brand of choice — J&J Stayfree — in six Johannesburg stores, she e-mailed the company’s customer service division to ask: “Don't you sell these anymore?”

This was the first response she got: “Your favourite Stayfree pads, pantyliners and tampons are available for purchase in-store & online at Clicks, Dis-Chem, leading retailers and wholesalers.”

“I don't think you read my message properly,” Refiloe responded. “Send your agents to Clicks, Checkers in Horizon, Clearwater Mall, Northcliff and Spar in Northcliff and see if you find the tampons there. Staff in those stores say they haven't seen them for months.”

A second agent went back to Refiloe to say: “We do apologise that you are unable to find the product. All our major retailers do stock them and if a store is out of stock then they would need to contact there [sic] Stayfree rep to get stock into there [sic] stores.”

Intrigued, I reached out to Olwethu Dlepu of J&J’s communications and private affairs division, who gave me the answer which the “customer service” staffers should have given Refiloe.

Due to lack of consumer demand and supply challenges, Johnson & Johnson have discontinued Stayfree tampons. And then she listed four SuperSpars, accessible to Refiloe, which still have stock (Rant en Dal, Florida market, Retail Crossing, Palm Court).

“Please note that we are reviewing our internal process to guarantee that in the future consumers get the right and clear information about our products' availability.” Noted.

CONTACT WENDY: E-mail:; Twitter: @wendyknowler; Facebook: wendyknowlerconsumer

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