Claim declined after thugs ‘pimped ride’

“Do they really think that I would drive a gangster mobile at my age and status?”

That’s the question Jenny Housdon asked after her 1998 Mazda Midge was stolen in Fish Hoek where she lives.

The thieves apparently turned it into a “pimpmobile” after they took it for a joyride when they were caught speeding, 126km/h in a 60km/h zone, on camera in Somerset West. They blacked the windows, replaced the wheels, and, according to Ms Housdon, caused extensive damage to the Midge.

When the insurance company, Auto&General (A&G) rejected her claim because it was less than the excess, she asked me to intervene.

“I took out a car insurance policy with A&G and have paid R28 000 in premiums over the past eight years. They did decrease the premiums slightly, and I had no reason to claim.

“In July the car was stolen, and I reported the theft to the police and by email to A&G. Ten days later, I received an automated response telling me to register the claim online, giving my ID and password, which I was reluctant to do as someone had been trying to hack my email. Eventually I was told to call an 0861 number to register the claim.

“Meanwhile the police had found the vehicle abandoned in Ravensmead and had taken it to Stikland where my mother and I went to identify it. The car was still registered in her name, and A&G were aware of this. I also notified A&G that the car had been found, but there was no response. I told the constable who was with us that the car wasn’t mine as it now had blacked out windows. However, the registration number was correct, and I sent pictures and details of the damage to the insurance company, but they didn’t reply,” Ms Housdon said.

“I called the 0861 number, but it is not user-friendly and was transferred to the wrong person. But I finally got it registered and waited. I found A&G on Facebook and complained. When Dorothy Smit, a customer relations agent responded, things started to move. I said I wanted to be emailed only (written proof) and that I would not take calls as I am now on foot or in public transport, and it is not safe to talk on a cellphone as it may be targeted and stolen,” she told A&G.

Briefly, Ms Housdon was told to meet the assessor at Stikland and give him the keys, although the car wasn’t driveable, but she didn’t have transport so she sent the pictures again with the list of visible damage: the side mirrors and windscreen were cracked, the ignition damaged, the locks broken, the gearlock removed and the wheels replaced with others.

“What about the invisible damage: chassis, steering, axle and ignition? Now they want to dump a car that’s going nowhere. They estimated the damage at R2 170.29 (did they even drive it, or look at it?) and they want me to pay to have the Midge removed,” she said.

Head of A&G, Ricardo Coetzee, confirmed that Ms Housdon had registered a claim but they had great difficulty contacting her as she had not always been available telephonically or by email, “hence the delay in processing and finalising this matter, and we have the trail of correspondence indicating our numerous attempts to make contact”.

He added: “A complete claim submission was registered about a month later and Ms Housdon and her mother still had to identify the vehicle, and it was only then that she was able to supply us with additional information we needed, which was done after about another month when the damage could be assessed.

“When the damages assessment was completed, it was found that the only damage related to the theft was to the ignition and to certain vehicle locks. The damages amounted to R2 170.29, which falls within the customer’s excess threshold of R3 500.

“The claim was declined. We attempted to convey our reasons for the claim decision to Ms Housdon and arrange delivery of the insured vehicle, without success. Ms Housdon, however, disputes the outcome of the matter and has advised us that she has no safe place for us to deliver the vehicle. Ms Housdon said she had been unable to communicate with us on the claim due to her email being compromised and for various other reasons.

“She also states that there are damages to several other parts of the vehicle that we did not assess. According to her, the perpetrators tinted the vehicle windows and the tyres were replaced. It is, however, impossible for us to verify this. We can find no indication that the windows were not tinted prior to the theft or that there were different tyres fitted to the vehicle,” said Mr Coetzee, who explained that A&G, in order to settle the issue amicably, were prepared to pay Ms Housdon
R2 170.29 and arrange for the delivery of the vehicle at no cost

Again A&G tried without success to contact Ms Housdon. They did eventually and the Midge was delivered to her.

Ms Housdon said she would probably sell the Mazda Midge.

“I will never use this company again,” she said.