Opinion | Social media isn’t a reliable source to access info about insurance

Social Media


Earlier this month, I was at Delhi’s Jama Masjid during Ramzan. The courtyard was teeming with people watching the sunset and waiting to break their fasts. As I looked out through the arches at the beautiful Red Fort, I could imagine Shah Jahan doing the same 350 years ago. Except, of course, for the official notice at the entrance that said, “No Tik-Tok videos allowed.”

Social media has cast its net wide and insurance is just about getting ensnared. Most insurers are on Facebook, Twitter and some on Instagram. One large insurer has over 2 million Facebook followers. For many others the number of followers ranges from 200,000 to 1 million. I checked my Tik-Tok account, but no insurer seems active there yet. Insurers engage on social media to share information and hear grievances.

Social media sites are a poor source of information for insurance. The material is mostly copied from the internet. One post, obviously drawn from the US, advises me to use aniseeds for a healthier life and I had to google it to know they meant saunf. Another post spoke about how insurance can mitigate inheritance tax. This is fine, except this tax does not exist in India. Insurers also share their advertisements and new product launches. There is a bland sameness to this information. The information is similar across social media sites because publishing tools are used to distribute the same content all across.

Social media could be an excellent grievance redressal mechanism but there is something about the medium that “unhinges” people. On unmoderated sites the comments come across as rants. They lack substance and when I have tried to go deeper, often there is no meaningful complaint, just an attempt to extort a benefit. Genuine complaints suffer because insurers switch off from social media comments. The official responses are mostly canned replies redirecting the complainant to an email address or customer care number. Many insurers now prohibit unmoderated comments on their pages. You can observe this as their posts are greeted by an army of appreciators about the “awesome” product being launched. An issue from the regulatory standpoint is that social media complaints are not defined as a grievance for reporting. If you must use social media to complain then Twitter is the most effective. However, the best way to get yourself heard by insurers remains the old-fashioned email.

Speaking of email, buyers must be cautious about phishing, which can take several forms. You could receive an email requesting payment through electronic means or a payment link, but the electronic transfer will be to an account not owned by the insurer. In fact, sometimes even if the account name looks similar to the insurer’s, the account can be a personal one. Similarly, the payment link might redirect money to a personal account. When you transfer money in this way, the insurer has limited liability and you stand to lose your entire payment. You can prevent such fraud by verifying if the email is from the company itself. The domain should be the company’s own. When you click on a payment gateway it should be one of the well-recognised payment portals and the insurer’s name must be clearly specified. Insurers will also generally display your policy details for confirmation.

If you are not using an electronic payment option, never hand cash to a sales person or write out a cheque to someone other than the insurer. The insurer’s full legal name is always mentioned in the footer on their websites. Insist on a receipt from the insurer and intermediary.

Insurance also has a solution for some of these risks, a personal cyber liability cover. These will pay for financial losses related to phishing and cost about 6,000 for a sum assured of 20 lakh. They also insure against some other online risks such as trolling and cyber-bullying, but those covers are currently extremely restrictive. For instance, the trolling cover will pay the cost of treatment by a mental health professional if it is established that trolling resulted in your condition.

At the Jama Masjid, after the fast was broken, I looked around to see if anybody was defying the Tik-Tok ban. They were not. Instead, all the youngsters had rushed out to Qureshi where succulent kebabs won hands down over Tik-Tok. Social media still has some catching up to do.