Fury in wake of funeral plan cancellation

Glenda Wyngaard, of Mitchell’s Plain, claimed two representatives of Prosperity Funeral Advisors (PFA), which has offices in Cape Town and Johannesburg, allegedly coerced her mother, Alma, 89, of Beacon Valley, into signing a letter cancelling a funeral policy that Glenda’s unemployed sister, Felicity Wyngaard, signed for without her knowledge.

It is a confusing story which was made even more confusing because the emails Glenda sent had various names on it, including Yasmin Ohlson, her boss, who had nothing to do with it.

The letter said the family wanted to cancel the policy because they could no longer afford the premiums. After the policy was cancelled, they did not get a refund, even though the two agents reportedly told them one was due to them.

Glenda said her mother did not need a funeral policy as she had full life cover. The policy was cancelled on January 24 last year but they still deducted the premium in February from her mother’s South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) pension grant.

Glenda said her sister, Felicity, had signed the contract, believing the money would be deducted from her account. The two agents had asked for Alma’s ID number and bank details to add her as a beneficiary.

When Promise Mlambo of PFA confirmed the money would be refunded, the two agents “went to my mother’s house and dictated a letter which my sister had to write and my mother had to sign. PFA then retracted the refund because my mother signed a letter stating that she could not afford the premiums”. “Please help us,” Glenda asked.

Dave Robb, from PFA’s national administration office, confirmed the policy had been cancelled due to financial difficulty.

“We always request a letter from the policyholder to confirm cancellation as only the policyholder can cancel it and in writing,” Mr Robb said.

Alma was paying R120 a month through her Sassa grant.

“The policy was not in Felicity’s name, we have two policies on record, one was for Felicity Wyngaard, which was submitted to be deducted on a child grant, but due to new regulations by Sassa, no deduction is allowed for a funeral policy on a child grant, so this policy was never incepted and there were no deductions. But the policy for Alma Wyngaard went through without a problem,” Mr Robb explained, and said Ms Mlambo asked for the letter to confirm cancellation of the policy and Alma wrote it of her own accord.

“The money was never deducted from Felicity’s Sassa grant. There is no refund due to Alma as the funeral policy was cancelled.”

But Glenda was not happy. So I asked Mr Robb to contact her. Which he did.

“When the complaint was brought to our attention in January via an mail sent by Yasmin Ohlson to Ms Mlambo, she followed the correct procedures and handled it satisfactorily.

“The policy was taken out by your family and you wanted it cancelled. But you wanted a full refund on the policy. The correct procedure is to request the cancellation in writing from the policyholder and if any deduction is made after the cancellation, a refund would be made,” Mr Robb said.

“The policy was taken out by Felicity on behalf of Alma who enjoyed the cover while this policy remained paid, so the decision taken at the time to cancel the policy without refund was correct.

“Ms Mlambo was not aware that this complaint had been brought to the attention of 1 Life (the underwriter) on July 28 (2016).

“I only found out when I spoke to you. Since then, I have been in contact with 1 Life and requested the recordings as well as all communication regarding this case. In the call recordings, you state that your sister did take out the policy for your mother, but you also say that you would like to have the policy cancelled. 1 Life asked that you send a request for the cancellation in writing from your mother as well as a copy of your bank statement so that she could send it to the relevant person for the cancellation. This didn’t happen and PFA were never made aware of your intention to cancel the policy in August last year.

“PFA only received the complaint recently and we weren’t aware of your dealings with 1 Life, so no action was taken by ourselves at that time. I will be following this up with 1 Life to try and ensure that this does not happen again,” Mr Robb said.

To cut a long story short, Mr Robb instructed 1 Life to cancel the policy backdated to July 28 2016 and to refund Alma. However, Alma does not have a bank account so Glenda had to send a letter signed by her mother to Ms Mlambo authorising the transaction. This was done and she received a refund of R840.

Mr Robb apologised to Glenda for the way the issue was handled.

I don’t think he had anything to apologise for. Glenda left out a few relevant details otherwise it would have been sorted long ago.

“Thank you, I’m happy with the outcome,” Glenda said.