Fun and games with an insurance company…

The following details the dealings I’ve had with AAMI and outline the background of what occurred. The following is the correspondence (with some slight omissions to protect names/contact details) that I have sent to/received from both AAMI and the Financial Ombudsman Service regarding what had happened and just how many times they’ve screwed up over the last three months, as well as my dealing with TMR regarding the reimbursement of my registration (another debacle entirely!)

It should be noted that I have checked the law in regards to this. Under the “Defence of Justification“, this post constitutes facts – phone conversations, emails, letters and face-to-face contacts had between myself and all parties involved. I have kept all correspondence, have noted all names of people I have dealt with, and have made sure that everything I have kept is admissible in court. I also feel it is within the publics best interests (though this is no longer a legal requirement as of 2006) to be aware of what has occurred so they are aware of a) what has happened in my situation and b) what means they have to fight back if they were in a similar situation.

This blog post does not constitute defamation.

(Fair warning – this blog post is approximately 5400 words long. Get yourself a cup of coffee/tea and settle in for a bit – you’ll be here for a while!)


I was sadly one of the thousands of poor souls who’s car had a slight run in with mother nature (read: my car was pelted with hail and looked like a golf ball) in the storm on 27th November, 2014. My little dark blue Suzuki Swift (2008 model with less than 75,000km) was butchered. 8 of the 12 panels were damaged, including the roof, bonnet and back door/tailgate as well as the entire passenger-side of the car, plus a number of nicks out of the windscreen, along with scuffs and scratches on the headlights. ‘Twas very sad, as she’d been a brilliant little car.

I called AAMI to report it and make a claim…along with hundreds upon hundreds of other people. 2 hours and 37 minutes after first calling I finally make it through. I pay my excess up front (something I now know isn’t standard, after speaking with numerous colleagues who also had their cars damaged by hail…) and I’m told that my claim has been processed, that my car should be taken to the assessment centre on 9th December. This suited me fine, as it’s close to my work.

A few days after this, I get a call from someone at AAMI who says that they’re setting up a hail damage assessment centre at Fairfield and would I mind taking my car there on the 18th instead?

Well, yes, actually I would mind considering that’s 9 days later than I was originally told and Fairfield is on the other side of the city to where I am. So no, I was happy to keep my existing appointment with the closer assessor.

On the 9th December I take my car in on time (7:45am) and then am told that I don’t get a cab voucher (as I’d been told on the phone) but that they will call a cab to take me to work or home or where ever I want to go. How do I get home from work? Well, that’s not their problem. I personally wanted a cab voucher because I was going to walk to work from the assessor and then catch a cab home that afternoon. Sadly, I couldn’t do that so I had to find “alternative modes of transport” to get home that afternoon.

I was lucky enough to be away for a few days after I dropped off the car, so I didn’t need it while AAMI made the initial assessment. I was told I’d hear back on the afternoon of the 9th or on the morning of the 10th what was going on with my car. Afternoon of the 9th and morning of the 10th passed, and no phone call. At 2pm on the 10th, I called to find out what was going on – “Oh yes, your car is being repaired, it’s was assessed yesterday and was sent off to the repairers today”. I was understandably upset and angry about this – why didn’t anyone call to provide this information to me? Not only that, but they were blatantly in breach of their own PDS, as they are supposed to contact me to inform me that it’s repairable so I can provide an alternative repairer (if I so choose).

Have to say I was pretty devastated. We’d been told by every single person who’d looked at our car (and that’s not an exaggeration – it was literally every single person) that our car had far too much damage to be considered repairable and it would have to be written off. To hear that it was being repaired didn’t fill me with joy.

My issues are as follows – if everyone we knew had looked at the car and thought it was being written off, that to me said that it was definitely bad. What kind of job were they planning on doing to save themselves the cash of writing the car off. Not only that, but by this time a number of colleagues and friends who’s cars had also received damage had already had their cars written off. I only know one person who had damage to their car as part of the hail storm who was even considered for repairs.

I was a tad upset so I asked to speak to the assessor, who told me that the car was totally repairable, that it only needed one panel replaced and that the current cost of repairs was only about $4500 – less than half the cost of the car itself. I was told (this is no joke – these were his actual words) that the value of the repairs would have to exceed $7000 in order for them to consider writing the car off.

Somewhat disturbed by the fact that only one panel was being replaced, I then contacted the repairer. When I spoke to the repairer they said that they were going to speak with the assessor again, as they were asked to quote on replacing only the bonnet and repairing everything else. The repairer, however, said the roof had to be replaced not repaired.

After speaking with AAMI again, I was told that my car would be ready on 24th December to collect.

Two weeks go by, no contact is made and (after speaking with a few friends of mine who have been in similar situations) on 24th December I call AAMI and state, up front, that I’m not comfortable with the roof of my car being cut off, due to it being structural. They log that as part of my claim and say that they’d call the repairer, but they’re closed and they can’t get through to the assessor. But my concerns are noted and they’ll get the assessor to call me on 29th December.

29th December comes and goes and no call. I wish I could say I was surprised. Due to current lack of communication, I decided to wait AAMI out to see if anyone would call.

6th January rolls around, and there’s been no communication at all. This has now been a month since the car went in for assessment. So I call and speak to someone. I’m told that they’re surprised no one has called me, as the assessor has looked at my notes at least a few times since I last called. I state, again, that no one has called me at all. I’m told the assessor will call me back as soon as possible.

The assessor doesn’t call, but the repairer does. The repairer states that they “cut roofs off cars all the time”, that it’s “standard procedure”, that I “have nothing to worry about”. This to me tells me they’ve already gone and done it and they’re trying to put my mind at ease – even after I had lodged a formal statement with AAMI saying I wasn’t comfortable with this happening. I’m then told that the costs of repairs have now reached between $7500 & $8000. By this stage I was filled with something akin to pure, unadulterated rage. Then got worse.

I’m then told, by the repairer, that one of the reasons it had taken so long to get the repairs completed was because the repairer went back and forth multiple times with the assessor, because the repairer wanted to REPLACE certain panels and the assessor refused to let them. The repairer, the person with the most experience in dealing with this kind of work, wanted to replace panels because they believed they were too damaged and the assessor refused. Yes, you read that right. REFUSED.

At this point, I was incredibly angry, so I decided to wait 45 minutes or so (to cool down) before calling AAMI again. And this time, gave them everything I had and lodged a formal complaint. I feel a bit sorry for the poor lady I was speaking to and I did mention, multiple times, that I wasn’t upset or angry with her and that I was very sorry if I’d made her uncomfortable. She then transferred me to the assessment centre where my assessor wasn’t available but another lady wanted to take all my details. Which she did – the whole story, all over again. She was going to email them to my assessor and get him to call me back that afternoon.

He did, at about 4:30. When I called him back, there was no response – he must’ve already left for the day. It should also be noted that he didn’t call me from a landline (that could be recorded) but from his mobile phone. Somewhat dodgy.

On the morning of January 7th, just before midday, I receive a call-back on my work phone, from the assessor (again on his mobile). Even repeating back all my information, he’s immovable. “The car was repaired, the repairs are guaranteed for life, yes we’re sorry we didn’t get back to you, the roof panel isn’t structural, we do this all the time”. The part that really got me incensed was the information regarding the repainting of the panels – two panels haven’t been resprayed, 2 panels have been blended, but the rest have all be resprayed. For metallic paint, that’s going to make it look ridiculous – for one panel being resprayed, blending is fine. But for over 80% of the car?

I’m then told my car is ready for pick-up. How long has it been ready? “I’m not sure, I’ll need to speak to the repairer”. I ask him to get that information and make sure he provides the information to me in writing. I receive an email a few minutes later stating that the car has been ready since Wednesday 31st December. It’s been ready for a week and no one thought to contact me?

At this point, my grievances are as such:

  • The request to move my initial assessment ahead by 9 days and to a location completely inconvenient to myself was made in the first place. I was already booked in for an assessment, why move it – other than to make life easier for AAMI?
  • It was not communicated to me that my car was being repaired, nor where it was being taken to for repairs – that information was only provided after I called AAMI (in breach of page 36 of the AAMI Comprehensive Car PDS)
  • I was not given the option of choosing a repairer or getting a second opinion (in breach of page 36 of the AAMI Comprehensive Car PDS)
  • The original assessment made by the assessor was obviously wrong, as the repairer recommended a full replacement of a panel the assessor had deemed repairable
  • No communication was provided to me regarding the state of my car – it was due to be returned to me on the 24th December and I heard nothing from AAMI (again, in breach of page 36 of the AAMI Comprehensive Car PDS)
  • My concerns regarding the removal of the roof were disregarded and ignored and no information regarding the procedure was given to me, only the constant patronising “we do this all the time”
  • When a callback was requested, no callback was forthcoming (as promised) – I was told the assessor would call me on the 29th, which did not happen despite him looking at the notes regarding my case multiple times (again, in breach of page 36 of the AAMI Comprehensive Car PDS)
  • It took me chasing the claim up on 6th January to discover what was happening regarding my car – no one attempted to call me or contact me regarding the claim (again, in breach of page 36 of the AAMI Comprehensive Car PDS)
  • I was obviously blatantly lied to by the assessor – obviously, as stated by the repairer, the repair costs equalled more than $7000 yet the car was not written off, as I was told by the assessor
  • The assessor did not have my best interest at heart, as proven by the fact that while the repairer wanted to replace damaged panels, the assessor refused to approve these
  • Rather than respraying the entire car (which they should’ve done, considering the number of panels damaged) they have purposefully avoided doing that, which will make the colour of the car uneven – something I was not willing to accept
  • When speaking with the assessor, no information was provided regarding the fixing of the windscreen chips or scuffs to my headlights which were most definitely caused by the hail storm, so I’m assuming these have not been remedied as they were not part of the “authorised repairs”
  • The car had been “ready” for a week prior to me calling and asking where it was, yet no notification had been provided to me by AAMI (again, in breach of page 36 of the AAMI Comprehensive Car PDS)
  • Not once, during this entire time, have AAMI contact me regarding my car – I have always had to chase them for the information (once again, in breach of page 36 of the AAMI Comprehensive Car PDS)

 


The above was sent directly (and verbatim) to AAMI (their direct email address) on 8th January. No response. Not even an automated “Thank you for your email, we will be in touch with you soon”.

After waiting the 5 business days that AAMI states (on their website) that it usually takes to respond, I then forwarded it to the next contact – their “Internal Dispute Resolution (IDR) Team” at approximately 8pm on 15th January. A response was forthcoming the following morning (16th January), at approximately 11:30am:

Dear Jess

Re : AAMI Claim Number : <CLAIM NUMBER>

Thank you for your email received 15.01.2015.

It is the role of our office to review complaints in accordance with AAMI’s internal dispute resolution (IDR) process.

As part of the IDR process, we are required to first refer the matter to a nominated decision maker within AAMI to review, contact you and seek to resolve the matter.

In this regard we have referred your email to a nominated decision maker to review your complaint and contact you by 19.01.2015.

If it cannot be resolved, they will refer the file back to our office, alternatively you may contact our office directly on 1300 240 437 (9am – 5pm EST Monday to Friday), or via email at <email address>

19th January comes. 19th January goes. No correspondence from AAMI. Wish I could say I was surprised at this point.

A further email was then sent to the IDR team, regarding the lack of communication, at approximately 10:30am on 20th January.

At approximately 4pm on the same day, I received a missed call from a mobile number. The caller left a voicemail, stating that their name was <B> from AAMI and could I please call back on <phone number>…which was odd as the number looked familiar. Sadly, I didn’t get this message until nearly 6pm. Called the number and was told that I’d called the original assessment centre. As I was expecting to be hearing from someone at AAMI, I was somewhat surprised to be hearing from the assessor instead. Unfortunately, at 6pm, they were closed.

I call back the following morning at approximately 8am. A lady answers the phone and I ask to speak to <B> (who it turns out is the assessor supervisor at the assessment centre – not an employee of AAMI). I’m put on hold and, a short while later, the lady that I originally spoke to comes back on the line and says that <B> is unavailable at the moment, but that he’ll call me again before midday. No call was received on any of my numbers (work, home or mobile) from anyone – neither from the assessment centre or AAMI.

On Tuesday 3rd February, I email AAMI IDR team again. This time I state that while I had received a call back, which I returned, I hadn’t heard anything since and it had now been 8 weeks since I had placed my car in for assessment and two weeks since I was due to receive a call back regarding my original complaint. I also noted in the email that not one person from AAMI directly had tried to contact me.

When noting on social media (tagging @AAMI in the process) that I hadn’t heard back from them, I was then directed to use an entirely different email address – their social media email address. I responded, saying that this email address isn’t mentioned anywhere in their complaints process, which is why I hadn’t emailed it after previously bringing up my AAMI grievances on social media.

After being asked again to contact them, as I hadn’t previously, I then sent them through a copy of everything that is above – all 2600 words. I then received a response at approximately 3pm, 5th February back as follows:

Hi Jess,

Thank you for taking the time to write to us. We take our customer complaints very seriously and will be in contact today to discuss your concerns in more detail.

In the event we are unable to reach you, please contact our Internal Dispute Resolution team directly using the following contact details:

<IDR phone number>
<IDR email address>

Have to say I wasn’t particularly impressed with this response, considering the IDR team is who I had been trying, in vain, to contact for the previous three weeks, which I stated in a reply email, along with the fact that AAMI have not been in contact with me once since this whole process started.

There was also no call or email received on 5th February from AAMI. So yet again, another “guaranteed” communication was not forthcoming. By this stage, I was hardly surprised. I ranted on social media and mentioned that I was contemplating engaging the Financial Ombudsman Service.

So on Friday 6th February, at approximately 8am, I sent all of the above to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) and lodged a formal complaint against AAMI.

At 8:45am, I received a missed called from FOS, which I returned immediately. While on the phone to the FOS, I received another call, which was yet again <B>from the assessment centre (though his voicemail message claimed he was from “the Suncorp group”). I returned the call and was put through to his mobile number – not a landline which would be recorded. I was then informed that my complaint had been lodged, that he was aware of the issues and based on the current situation with both my car (which apparently isn’t completely repaired yet and the repairs that have been done are not to the assessors standards) and my complaint, they were writing my car off as a total loss and I would be receiving the agreed value of the car.

I then requested this in writing, which I did receive as follows:

Hi Jess

As per our earlier phone conversation, based on the situation with your claim & the repairs to your vehicle, both costs & also the fact that the repairs are still not completed to my satisfaction, I will be paying you out for the vehicle, which means, your vehicle will be deemed a Total Loss.
Settlement is based on the vehicle being Agreed Value <value>.
As discussed you have no finance on the vehicle, so this is what we will pay you.
I will arrange to process the claim today & have one of our Total Loss assignees give you a call to obtain bank details for EFT settlement.

If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me via email.

The phone call I had with <B> though was somewhat concerning – AAMI now has ownership of my car (they have retrieved it from the repairers) and <B> stated that he was not happy with the quality of repairs and that the car was still not fully repaired – over 2 months since initial assessment and since the car was put in for repair. If this is the case, why were they (up until the point I engaged the FOS services) trying to get me to sign for and take ownership of this car that was not completely repaired?

At this point, I was somewhat pleased that it was all close to an end. I agree to wait for the ‘Total Loss Assignee’ to contact me. While waiting, I then discover that I may be able to get my registration fees reimbursed as well (as I paid 6 months of registration in late December) – I call and send an email regarding this and am told that it will be attached as part of my claim.

As of 3pm 6th February no call had been received regarding my claim and pay out.

I was finally informed on Monday 9th February that I would be receiving my payout, after speaking with <S>, who was from the complaints department. A claims receipt, for the full agreed value, was received. This money was then received into my account as of Tuesday 10th February.

I attended a TMR Customer Service Centre (first visit) to ascertain how I could get my registration reimbursed, and was told my the lady on the counter that “this wasn’t possible, it’s done by the insurance company as part of your payout”. Not willing to take that, I then contacted the TMR call centre and spoke with someone who said that it was definitely possible for me to get my registration reimbursed, I’d just need to fill out a specific form.

I filled out this specific form and took it into TMR (second visit), however I was then informed that the form would not suffice – I would need a letter stating the car had been written off from my insurance company.

An email receipt and an email of “total loss” was received – however when attempting to use this at TMR (third visit) to get my registration reimbursed, I was informed that the letter needed to state when the car was officially surrendered into the possession of the insurance company. I contacted AAMI and asked for this and was told I would receive this within three business days.

I waited the 3 business days I was told it would take to email this to me and then contacted them again after it had not been received. I was then told that it would be easier for me to send AAMI my TMR receipt and get them to reimburse it – which it would not be. I was then told I would receive an email from them by COB Friday 13th February with this letter. I was then told they would not be able to provide me with the assessment date as “that’s not done by AAMI, that’s done by the assessment centre and you would need to contact them for that letter”.

When I contacted the assessment centre for the letter, I was told that they would get it to me as soon as possible. I received an email an hour or so later…with the same ‘total loss’ letter that I’d already received from AAMI twice before.

At this point, I got somewhat agitated on social media, tagging @AAMI yet again. I received a response to contact their social media team with my details and claim number. I emailed them, CC’ing the IDR team that I was waiting on a letter stating the date I surrendered my car so that I could get my registration reimbursed from TMR.

At the same time as this happening, I received a letter, dated 9th February 2015 from <S>, stating that she believed my case with AAMI had now been handled and that my complaint with the FOS could be closed. This was most definitely not the case. I responded on 13th February with the following:

Hi,

I have received your letter regarding my claim and complaint.

While I agree that there has been a settlement to the sum of the agreed value of the car, none of my original complaints (regarding communication, the original assessment etc.) have been answered.

I am still waiting reimbursement of my premiums (for January and February) as well as the reimbursement of my registration (which in itself has been a debacle as it seems no on in AAMI or the assessment centre can seem to get their act together regarding a simple letter).

I therefore request the IDR keep this complaint open and respond to me regarding the following:

  • Why was communication (which is mandated in your PDS) non-existent?
  • Why was the car originally assessed as repairable and was continued to be assessed as repairable until such time as I raised the Financial Ombudsman Service?
  • Why did the assessor tell me to collect the car when, according to the assessment centre supervisor (who has seen the car), the car was not completely repaired?
  • Why has it taken over 2 months for this matter to be settled?
  • What is being done to ensure this doesn’t happen again?

 

Once these questions have been answered, I will then look at closing the complaint. Until that time the complaint with yourself, the IDR and the FSO will remain open. The FSO has already been alerted to this, despite your attempts to close the complaint.

After much chasing, I finally received the letter from the assessment centre with the surrendered date on 16th February. I then went back to TMR (fourth visit) and was told that while I now had the form, the total loss letter and the letter stating the date of assessment and surrender, I had nothing stating the plates had been destroyed or the plates themselves. So no, I wasn’t able to get my registration reimbursed.

After chasing up AAMI & the assessor that day, as well as being given the details for a company called “Manheim” and speaking with them, I was finally able to find out that my plates were available for pick-up at the assessor…something no one had bothered to tell me until this point.

I was then able to go and collect my plates and make a (fifth) visit to TMR to claim my registration back. FIVE visits – for something that should really have only taken one, had I been given all the information that was required at the very beginning!

I have since received another letter from AAMI requesting that my dispute be closed as it has been “handled” by their external resolution team and no longer requires the attention of the IDR or the FOS. I disputed this, as I was still waiting on the information I requested of <S> back on 13th February. I was also still waiting on my reimbursement of excess premiums, which I was told would be sent by cheque as of 9th February.

I finally received the reimbursement of my premiums on Monday 23rd February and I received my registration reimbursement on Thursday 26th February.

On 4th March, I received a phone call from the FOS, asking if my complaint had been completed, as they had been contacted by AAMI to resolve the issue. I detailed my issues, and was told that while I may be able to receive a formal apology in writing, there is no way any admission of guilt would be forthcoming regarding how badly AAMI had screwed up my claim. I said the minimum I’d be happy with was a written apology and agreed that if AAMI provide this, we can close the case.

On Tuesday 17th March I received another phone call from the FOS asking if I’d received my written apology. I hadn’t – in fact, I still haven’t (as of 24th March). FOS forwarded me through a PDF copy of a letter from AAMI, dated 13th March. The full text is as follows:

Re: Dispute lodged with the Financial Ombudsman Service

Thank you for taking the time to make contact with the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) regarding your motor vehicle claim.

I have reviewed your dispute and agree that the way in which AAMI handled your claim was not satisfactory. I acknowledge that a claim of any magnitude can be emotionally trying, however given the amount of damage to your vehicle; I understand your disappointment in the time taken to complete the assessment and subsequent repairs, only to have the vehicle declared a total loss.

On behalf of AAI Limited, trading as AAMI, please accept my apology for the way in which your claim was handled, and for any inconvenience this matter has caused.

I confirm that I have provided your feedback regarding the time taken to complete the assessment of your vehicle, the service received from AAMI and overall claims experience. I agree that the decision made to attempt repairs to your vehicle was incorrect, which ended up being the source of your dispute.

Once again, I would also like to thank you for taking the time to raise your concerns with the Financial Ombudsman Service. I can confirm that I have provided feedback to the Executive Manager of AAMI’s Motor Claims Department so that issues such as the decision process relating to repairs and delays are identified earlier to safeguard future claimants against experiences such as yours.

If you have any questions, please contact me on <phone number> during normal business hours.

Yours sincerely,

<name redacted>
Senior Dispute Resolution Officer

I think the line “the time taken to complete the assessment of your vehicle” was a classic – my car was assessed in less than a day and sent off for repair before I’d even been given an option. The next part – “the service received from AAMI”…what service? They failed in multiple ways, including against their own PDS, to offer me anything even close to service, until I engaged the FOS.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m happy I was able to receive even this. But I still think the way it was handled was utterly ridiculous. And a simple apology letter wasn’t going to erase the three months of angst, agitation, aggravation and emotional turmoil that this company had put me through.


 

Because of this, I decided to publish this blog post – because I don’t think it’s fair that an insurance company can get away with treating their paying customers this badly. The only reason my car was written off was because I was making too much of a fuss – and once the FOS was involved, I was costing them a lot of money. It was easier, simpler and cheaper to just pay me out and make me shut up.

I find this incredibly offensive – not everyone is like me. Not everyone is willing to fight for their rights – because not everyone knows what their rights are. I don’t think that I should’ve waited over 3 months to get a resolution to this issue, nor should I have had to engage the FOS.

The assessor I dealt with was wrong. He incorrectly assessed my car. He was belligerent, rude, misogynistic, chauvinistic and downright mean. He thought that he was saving his company money by screwing me over – and instead he got a fight.

My worry is for the hundreds if not thousands of people out there who might be in a similar situation. Yes, it’s tiring. Yes, it’s frustrating. Yes, it’s time consuming. But it’s worth it to fight for your rights. If you don’t, no one else will.

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