Illustration: Colin Daniel

If your car insurance policy is linked to a tracking device that monitors your driving behaviour, find out whether the recorded information may be used by your insurer to repudiate a claim, the Ombudsman for Short-term Insurance warns.

To encourage better behaviour behind the wheel, some short-term motor insurers offer a discount on premiums if a record of responsible driving is kept. You are required to install in your car a monitoring device that will record bad driving, such as speeding, harsh accelerating and sudden braking. It will also record good driving.

“However, insurers have taken the use of the driver-monitoring device a step further,” the ombudsman, Dennis Jooste, says. “As the information is recorded and open to scrutiny, the data can be used to validate or repudiate an insurance claim. Some insurers say they will not use the information to repudiate a claim. Consumers are urged to get clarity from the insurer about its policy in this regard.”

Of the increasing number of insurers offering this service, Discovery Insure, for one, insists it won’t use the information against you when you claim. Our current edition of Personal Finance magazine contains an article on the subject, referred to in the industry as telematics (“Backseat driver”, 4th quarter, 2015). In the article, the founder of Discovery Insure, Themba Baloyi, is quoted as saying the use of data against you “should not and could not” happen.

But it is happening in the case of other insurers. In a complaint to Jooste’s office, Mr Y had a “driver behaviour policy” with a particular insurer. The policy required him to have an approved driver-monitoring device installed in his vehicle, and it included specific terms and conditions of cover – for example, it stipulated that bad driving would result in the cancellation of the policy and that information obtained from the tracking device could be used to determine the outcome of a claim.

When he took out the cover, Mr Y was advised by the insurer’s sales representative of the policy terms and conditions and, most importantly, that there would not be cover for any loss resulting from reckless driving.

The conditions stipulated that, if Mr Y was found to have exceeded the speed limit by more than 30 kilometres an hour in the 60 seconds leading up to an accident, any claim in respect thereof would not be paid. Mr Y accepted the terms and conditions of the policy and had a monitoring device installed in his vehicle.

Subsequently, Mr Y was involved in an accident, and he submitted a claim to his insurer. He reported that he had been driving at less than 60km/h at the time of the collision. However, the report from the tracking company recorded that, on the date of the accident, Mr Y had been travelling between 130 and 140km/h in a 70km/h zone. The speed recorded immediately before the collision was 109km/h, and at the time of impact it was 70km/h. The insurer concluded that Mr Y was speeding at the time of the accident, and it repudiated his claim.

On receiving the complaint, the ombudsman reviewed the travel report, together with the terms and conditions of the policy, and found that Mr Y’s claim clearly fell within an exclusion of the driver behaviour policy.

CONTACT

For short-term insurance complaints, call the office of Dennis Jooste, the Ombudsman for Short-term Insurance, on 0860 726 890, or email [email protected]