PNB Metlife online premium payment does no verification of the policy number with date of birth, mobile and email address. One policyholder made a mistake in keying in the policy number. Amazingly, PNB Metlife refunded the premium to the wrong policyholder and is washing its hands off!
In June 2012, Asha Kapoor (name changed) used the online premium payment facility of PNB Metlife to pay Rs25,000 for her ULIP policy. While she put correct date of birth and mobile number, the policy number had a typo with one digit switched (e.g. policy number 37012645 instead of 37012654). Without any cross-check with the entered date of birth and mobile number, the payment was accepted for a wrong policy.
To make the matter worse, PNB Metlife refunded in full to the policyholder of the wrong policy (also a ULIP) to which payment was applied. It must be first case in history of ULIP that an insurance company claims to have refunded full premium!
A ULIP has premium allocation charge, policy administration charge, surrender charge and also mortality charge for risk cover. Once you make a premium payment to an existing policy there is just no way to get back your full premium. How did PNB Metlife ‘refund’ the full amount?
On not receiving an electronic receipt, Ms Kapoor filed a complaint with the grievance cell in November 2012. After couple of interactions, she finally got a reply in February 2013 that the premium had been paid to a wrong policy and that PNB Metlife had refunded the full premium to the policy owner of the wrong policy in Septmber 2012. Ms Kapoor should have asked for statement or logged in to see if the payment was indeed used to buy units for her policy in June 2012. It was a mistake that proved too costly.
PNB Metlife gave Ms Kapoor the name, address and landline number of the wrong policyholder and asked her to follow-up on her own and get her refund. According to PNB Metlife’s reply to the policyholder, “We would like reiterate that the user is responsible for the accuracy and authenticity of the instructions provided to Metlife and/or service provider and the same shall be considered to be sufficient to operate the payment gateway. Metlife have no liability or obligation to independently verify the instructions or the authenticity of any transaction.”
Ms Kapoor has tried contacting the wrong policyholder on many occasions, but has not succeeded since the telephone number does not exist. The wrong policyholder’s address is in a different state which makes it difficult to physically visit and find out.
The case gets interesting based on what Ms Kapoor found out about the wrong policyholder. According to Ms Kapoor, “The person had enrolled for a ULIP policy in 2008. No premiums were paid thereafter. The policy was probably in a suspended state. This person got a refund of Rs25,000 and closed the policy. He was a PNB MetLife agent till 2010 or thereabouts. It is clear that there has been collusion between this person and PNB MetLife.”
The questions that arise in this case are:
1. Why does PNB Metlife online premium payment ask for the date of birth, email and mobile number when it is not cross-checked with the policy number for which the payment is made? Even if it is accepted, can they not know that details entered do not match and then alert the bank account holder at some later time?
2. How did the wrong policyholder come to know that someone has made premium payment towards his policy?
3. If he somehow came to know about it, did he ask for a refund? If so, how is it possible that PNB Metlife gave full refund of Rs25,000 by cheque? Does any life insurance policy give back the full premium paid at anytime?
4. Why did PNB MetLife refund the Rs25,000 to the wrong person and not to the bank account from where the money originated?
5. Did the wrong policyholder commit a fraud by asking for a refund knowing that someone else had made premium payment by mistake?
6. Did he get an SMS alert or email when Rs25,000 premium was paid towards his policy.
7. How will PNB Metlife account the refund with its database of policyholders? The exact amount of Rs25,000 may not be what was due from the wrong policyholder. That should have also alerted PNB Metlife before they even thought of making any refund. How will the refund be accounted for against a wrong person?
8. Why did PNB Metlife take such a long time to find out what really happened? Why did PNB Metlife take over two months to tell Ms Kapoor that they refunded her premium payment to wrong policyholder? Does this represent usual customer service delays?
9. Is it good customer service to tell your policyholder to go and retrieve your the money you lost from someone else?
10. Was the wrong policyholder a PNB agent and if so, was a there a collusion between PNB Metlife staff and the wrong policyholder?
PNB Metlife has kept a stony silence on the issues raised by Moneylife even after couple of emails and a phone call.
We have checked other websites like ICICI Pru Life and HDFC Life for online premium payment. They have much more checks than PNB Metlife. At the minimum each website stopped from online payment if policy number and date of birth did not match. Can PNB Metlife put a simple check to verify the details it takes from policyholder before accepting the payment or are they too eager to get payment from anyone by hook or by crook?