The huge rush to buy life insurance online – at one point as high as 80 per, cent thanks to the public scandals that have damaged the industry’s credibility – have led to warnings.
The Association of Financial Advisers chief executive Brad Fox says buying life insurance over the phone after answering a few questions is just plain dangerous.
“As is often the case in life, if it seems too good to be true, then it probably is,’’ he says.
Brad, who recently resigned his post, represented financial advisers who charged substantial commissions on life insurance, and trailing commissions.
So no surprises for hearing him say: “Buying life insurance without a financial adviser might be faster upfront, but the sting is in the tail. It means the policy has not been underwritten and at claims time, consumers may well find out they were never covered.’’
But, like travel agents who say they iron out the details that can ruin a holiday, there is something in what he says.
Particularly since we have recently been treated to cases where hundreds of claims have been disallowed by banks like The Commonwealth.
He said that if the direct insurer determines that you had health issues back when you purchased the policy, or even in the years before, they may only refund the premium and not pay out.
“We think that is unconscionable,’’ Mr Fox said.
The AFA advocates that all life insurance be underwritten at application time.
The only way to reduce the risk of a policy not paying out at claims time is to see an adviser, he said.
“It will take longer to put the insurance in place because it is carefully underwritten in line with the client’s individual medical and family history before it is offered.’’
ASIC’s MoneySmart website advises consumers to buy life insurance in three ways:
From your super fund, insurance companies, insurance brokers or financial advisers.
“It is a good idea to shop around and compare policies based on the level of cover they provide, exclusions and value,’’ MoneySmart says.
Consumers should always find out if insurance companies cover any pre-existing medical conditions.
“You will need to disclose relevant details of your medical history to the insurance provider if you are asked. Failing to tell it like it is, could leave you with a worthless policy,’’ MoneySmart said.
Consumers can use the internet to do research but they should talk to an agent or insurance broker before buying an insurance, Termlife Insurance Saver advises.
If you are looking to purchase a life insurance policy or change your existing one, it is important that you find out as much information as possible about the types of policies out there and how appropriate they are for your age and lifestyle. Click here to see our quick guide on life insurance needs through different life stages.