In January 2012, I purchased an $80 AccessAmerica travel insurance policy through my travel agent (at his recommendation) for a cruise scheduled for this fall. AccessAmerica has since become Allianz Global Assistance. In May I cancelled the cruise through my agent, and the cruise line, Princess, happily refunded my booking deposit on my credit card, no questions asked.
I assumed it would be a trivial matter to get the $80 travel insurance policy refunded as well. Was I ever mistaken! The following events took place over a three week period this summer.
When I first called the 800.284.8300 customer service number, I was told that the phone reps cannot refund policies over the phone. Also, I must submit my request via email, and they had no way to speak directly to that department or connect me via phone to that department. I thought this was very strange, but nonetheless I emailed support as instructed, included my policy number, wrote that I cancelled the cruise and would like my $80 refunded on my credit card. A week went by with no response.
When I phoned back, the rep said they were surprised no one responded to my email and put me on hold while they 'got on the phone' with this department, apparently the same one that a week earlier they had no way of contacting via phone. When they returned, they asked me to forward my original email again to support and someone would standby and wait for it. I was then told they did receive it, and to wait a few days for their response. The rep casually said they thought I was
wasting my time asking for a refund since they only refund within ten days of issuing the policy. I had mentioned in the conversation I was trying to get a refund and emailing seemed like a lot of hoops to jump through to get a simple charge reversed on my credit card.
Several days later, I indeed received an email response. I was asked to provide the original booking cancellation from the cruise line to prove I cancelled the cruise. And I was asked to submit a written statement confirming the trip cancellation. I of course did not have the cancellation documents, since the cancellation was handled by my travel agent. Several more days went by as I scrambled to get the documents from my agent.
When I emailed the cancellation documents, I waited three more days to get my response:
'Unfortunately we are unable to honor your refund request for the following reason(s): -The policy purchase date reflects 01/18/2012. We offer a 10 day satisfaction guarantee from the purchase date. The coverage is valid 770 days from the purchase date. We ask that you complete travel by Wednesday, February 26, 2014. Once you have established your new travel dates we ask that you provide a copy of the cancelled itinerary and a copy of the new itinerary.'
I called the 800 number to let them know how unhappy I was that they made me go through this ridiculous email volley when they knew in advance they were going to deny my request, as the phone rep had earlier implied. I then asked why I could not get my money back, since the cruise line had no problem refunding my booking deposit. The response was that they will honor the policy for 770 days.
My response to that was: I am not going on the cruise this fall, next fall, or for the foreseeable future. So I want my money back. I mentioned that ten days is a very short time frame to cancel, given that most folks book cruises very far in advance and that many unforeseen events can occur that could trigger a cancellation. The cruise lines are aware of this and accommodate, as they did for me.
Bottom line is I want to decide how and when I will spend my money. Much like the store gift card expiration date scams of not so long ago, what they are really saying is we will keep your money for a certain amount of time and if you dont use it, you lose it. I called back to speak to a supervisor and was read the very same script Tarika must have cut and pasted to me. I asked the supervisor if she felt it was ethical to take someone's money and not provide goods or services for it. She just repeated the policy. Somehow they think that by 'offering' an additional two years to use the policy, it is then fine to keep your money if you dont want to or cannot for whatever reason. It is holding a customer hostage. They do it -I believe- because they know few people will even attempt to jump through the ridiculous red tape phone and email hoops to get to their final answer.
I have read many reports on here about how Allianz handles claims, and it is not surprising they often either dont honor them or find ways to delay paying them. Thankfully I never got that far. Nor will I ever again with Allianz, or any other name they absorb or morph in to.
The worst part is, my travel agent even offered to get involved if I got nowhere with the supervisor. When I finally had no other recourse, I did ask him to intervene. He reported back to me that several of his customers DID in fact get a refund on their policies when they cancelled after the ten days, and that it is up to the discretion of the rep or supervisor to make the call. That makes the whole refund situation even more egregious. I like to think my agent does not receive any commissions from Allianz for promoting them. I have told him should I book in the future, to either recommend another insurance company, or simply keep his mouth shut. His affiliation with Allianz does not shine favorably on his agency.
You will find Allianz has a glowing, accredited A+ rating with Better Business Bureau. This is because, like most any entity that can afford to, they buy the BBB rating. Look further at the sheer number of complaints lodged against them - 552 going back three years from today's date - that tells another story altogether. I have reported Allianz to my local TV station fraud/scam/shady dealings investigative department, as well as my state consumer protection agency.
Allianz Global Assistance runs a very good scam folks. It is essentially fraud. I strongly advise anyone to look elsewhere for a travel policy, unless you can look far into your future with certainty within your first ten days of purchase. I wonder how many $80 freebies Allianz walks away with each year because of their 'ten day satisfaction guarantee'. And they have no problem telling you they are doing nothing wrong.