Wednesday, August 01, 2012

United Insurance Company of America—YIKES!

Beware! This is an ugly story! Maybe not as ugly as the thought of Bristol Palin doing “Dancing With the Stars” again in September…but ugly.

For twelve years, I have had a small “renters insurance” policy with United Insurance. It’s basically a fire insurance policy and covers minimum needs. It was only $8.15 a month. It is true that for 12 years, United Insurance and its agents did stupid and annoying things, but the premium price was attractive.

For one thing, although I always sent my checks on the third of the month, United Insurance never deposited them until the 21st of the month, causing my account to seem to be in arrears. My bank has sent the checks to United through its “bill pay” service for the past five years. But last year, I received a payment book from United. This was the practice fifty years ago. Checks were enclosed in the book, mailed in, and the book was returned with a “payment received” notation. I had to remind United that time had passed and now newer ways of paying were being used…like bill pay.

A month ago, the Bala Cynwyd, PA office for United informed me I had not paid my insurance bill for three months and my insurance had been cancelled. I informed United that my bank had been sending checks all along. United got back to me and said that although it was true, my July check had been received, I had not paid the May and June premiums and I needed to re-sign for a policy. I told United that my bank had dutifully mailed the checks every month and that I couldn’t possibly need to re-sign a new policy.

I sent a snail-mail letter to United Insurance explaining my position. Eventually, a couple weeks ago, I was informed by the United Insurance Bala Cynwyd office that the office in North Carolina where my checks were being sent had not been in operation for many months. The fact that my bills clearly said I was to remit to the North Carolina office did not faze anyone in Bala Cynwyd. I was told it was up to me to mail my checks to the correct place.

Yesterday was the denouement. I called Bala Cynwyd to find out where I should mail my checks now. I had not received a bill for my August premium. I was told that Bala Cynwyd had no record that I had ever had an account at United Insurance. I was directed to call the home office in St. Louis. I called St. Louis. St. Louis wanted to know my policy number. I said I had no idea what my policy number was, but I gave them the account number printed on all my bills from United. St. Louis couldn’t find my account. I said my bank had been mailing my checks, as instructed on my bill, to North Carolina. I said my bill did not have a policy number. St. Louis called Bala Cynwyd. Bala Cynwyd said I didn’t exist.

Finally, I sicced my bank on United Insurance. A United employee told my bank that I had given them a wrong account number. United Insurance said I did exist, but the account number I had given my bank, which was on all my bills and which I’d had for twelve years was wrong. I did not recognize the account number that United said was correct.

My bank told United Insurance that it (my bank) was not in error, that it had been correctly sending payments to United. United told my bank it had not received the last three payments, even though United had told me it had received the July payment. In any case, United maintained that the account number I had given to my bank was wrong.

The upshot is that I gave my bank permission to stop payment (at no cost to me) on the last three payments and I will be reimbursed. United says I will now have to re-sign for a new policy.

FAT CHANCE. Of course I am getting a new insurance company.

I do not understand why United did this. Was it sheer incompetence? Or did it want to rid itself of a small policy holder? Whatever the reason, United Insurance spokespersons blatantly lied when talking to my bank. That goes beyond conducting business in a prudent and sharp way.

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