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Home > Business > Business Headline > Report

Insurance agents spin rebates into freebies

Sidhartha and Partha Ghosh in New Delhi | July 30, 2003 09:23 IST

Insurance agents are coming up with innovative ideas to circumvent the restrictions put in place by the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority to prevent them from passing on commissions to policyholders.

To entice individuals into buying particular insurance policies, agents are now offering freebies, like household appliances, restaurant coupons, memberships to car breakdown services or resorts, and even personal accident covers.

For executives buying covers for their firms, insurers are offering free trips to Thailand or Malaysia under the guise of seminar trips.

A private sector life insurance company is even leaving the choice of the city to prospective clients, as long as they do not venture outside Asia. The catch: he would have to pay over Rs 500,000 as premium for a life insurance cover.

Depending on the policy purchased, some agents are willing to pass on up to 80 per cent of their commissions. The rebate can be encashed in the form of a colour television set or an audio system.

A washing machine comes with the offer of a rebate of 70 per cent. A poor negotiator, who manages to get an agent to pass on 60 per cent of the commission, can even end up with a microwave.

General insurers, on their part, are offering attractive schemes with motor insurance policies. A particular agent, working on behalf of a private insurance firm, was offering free memberships for the car helpline, Race (which comes for around Rs 350 a year), coupons to ritzy restaurants and a personal accident cover of Rs 100,000. Another agent, working for a rival insurer, also offered a free membership for a car helpline service.

Though agents of state-owned general insurers are not willing to offer services or gifts they are ready to match private companies' offers with a personal accident cover for a higher sum assured.

"Private companies have tied up with TV manufacturers and restaurants, the public sector cannot do that," an agent said.

However, they are strictly against offering cash discounts. "We don't offer cash rebates. Irda is strict about passing on commissions," another life insurance agent said.

Agents with general insurance companies selling motor insurance said the new tariffs did not leave much scope for rebates. All this comes when private players are raising a hue and cry over rebating.

To avail of these offers one may not even need to contact an agent or a broker. All one needs to do is read the pamphlets slipped in with the morning newspaper or watch out for advertisements on a cable channel.

If you still fail to notice them, an agent is sure to give you a call when your motor insurance or householder's policy comes up for renewal.

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