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Allianz bitten for punishing old pets

CHOICE says a consumer tip-off led to ASIC biting Allianz over its dodgy pet insurance policies.

13 June 2016

Consumer group CHOICE has welcomed Allianz Australia Insurance Limited's (Allianz) decision to compensate 740 Petplan insurance customers over $231,000 after it failed to properly disclose the true costs of its products.

"This is a win for pet owners against some shady insurance practices. It's great to see ASIC can bite as well as bark," says CHOICE Head of Media Tom Godfrey.

"We decided to send Allianz to the pound following a consumer tip-off 18 months ago when we were contacted by Melanie Rumball from Canberra on social media."

"Having diligently paid her pet premiums, Melanie was bitten by Allianz's dodgy co-payment policy when her German shepherd husky-cross Tequila turned eight," Mr Godfrey says. 

Following the tip-off, CHOICE reviewed 68 pet insurance products and found Petplan failed to disclose co-payment requirements on six of its policies.

"After covering 100% of the vet bills until age eight, Petplan's cover drops to 65% right at the time in the pet's life when they need it the most," says Mr Godfrey.

"If Petplan's policy of increasing co-payments as your pet ages wasn't bad enough, failing to disclose these additional costs had us smelling a rat and we welcome ASIC's action on the matter," Mr Godfrey says

"If your furry friend gets sick, pet insurance should help you manage vet bills but, as we've seen with Ms Rumball's Tequila, if you are not careful tricky terms and conditions can come back to bite you."

"If you've been stung by Allianz's dodgy co-payment clauses and are yet to be compensated, it's time to start barking about it."

"With pet owners coughing up significant premiums each year, it pays to read the fine print because while insurers like to market themselves as warm and cuddly they seldom pass up a chance to take a bite out of your wallet," says Mr Godfrey.

Following CHOICE's investigation and referral to the regulator, Allianz:

  • provided compensation of $231,000 to 740 Petplan insurance customers who had to make co-payments for vet fees for pets aged 8 years and over
  • removed all references to the 100% rebate on veterinary bills from the Petplan website; and
  • updated the product disclosure statement and the online sales process to clearly disclose the existence and application of the variable excess for pets aged 8 years and over.

For more information about pet insurance and how to avoid being stung by tricky terms and conditions visit: www.choice.com.au/petinsurance

CHOICE tips

  • Always read the product disclosure statement (PDS) thoroughly.
  • The earlier you insure your pet, the better. Pre-existing conditions can be a catch.
  • Check the co-payment policy and the percentage it pays out.
  • Bear in mind premiums are specific to breed as well as species.
  • Check how much your premium will increase as your pet ages.
  • Check for caps on how much you can claim for ongoing or chronic conditions.
  • Vet bills for tick paralysis can be up to $6000, so check your cover and watch for sub-limits.
  • Ask your vet about common conditions affecting your pet's breed. Make sure your policy has sufficient cover for them as some genetic conditions can be pricey.
  • "Routine care" is a form of 'extras' insurance for your pet. Look at your regular pet costs and weigh them against the potential benefits.

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