In submitting this report, I am not seeking assistance to retrieve any money, as I have already managed to get a full refund on my own. The purpose of this report is strictly to inform other consumers regarding how a major American company has been operating. My report involves a "primary company" (AIG - the real subject of my report) and a "secondary company" (WAMU).
I live in Colorado. I had a WAMU bank account last year (2008). "WAMU Insurance" mailed a promotional one-page flyer to me specifically and exclusively referring to "disability" insurance coverage for $9.95 per month in June 2008. The mail piece was a full-color one-page promotional notice on card stock (thick) paper. Instructions on this flyer required that, "for more information..." I should sign it (why - I did not know) and mail it back. Being curious, and trusting a large and established old American company, I followed the guidelines on the flyer.
AIG mailed an "accident" insurance policy proposal to me from Jacksonville, Florida on September 26, 2008. I received that proposal on September 29, 2008. I still have the post-marked envelope to prove the 9-26-2008 mail date. The rate for this proposed "accident" policy was $39.95 per month. AIG claimed the "coverage effective date" to be September 19, 2008. A quarterly fee of $119.85 had been withdrawn from my WAMU bank account on October 2, 2008 without my consent.
WAMU and AIG seemed to be pulling some kind of bait-n-switch trick.
At the top of the "certificate" page, the "company" (underwriter) is identified as:
AIG Domestic Accident and Health Division
National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, PA
70 Pine Street, New York, NY 10270
The "certificate" contains the following paragraph:
"RIGHT TO EXAMINE THIS CERTIFICATE: This certificate of insurance is issued to YOU, the INSURED, and can be returned for any reason within the later of: (1) 30 days after it is received by YOU; or (2) 30 days after Your Coverage Effective Date. The certificate should be returned by mail or in person to the Company. Any premium paid will be refunded and the certificate will be treated as if it were never issued."
In response to their stipulated requirement, I mailed their certificate and all other contents back to the name and address above. In my cover letter to them, I stated that I was returning their certificate, I asked them to cancel the offer, and I requested that they refund the $119.85 quarterly premium amount back to my bank account. I very carefully computer-printed my label using exactly the mailing information they had provided on their certificate page. I went to a US Postal office and sent the package using Certified Mail on October 6, 2008. Of course, I kept the receipt in order to track the mail status online and print the results.
The first US Postal online "track and confirm" report stated:
"Arrival, October 14, 2008 11:16 am, New York, NY 10005"
Although my label said "10270" for the zip code, this first address did not accept my package:
70 Pine Street, New York, NY 10005.
The second US Postal online "track and confirm" report stated: "We attempted to deliver your item at 11:57 am on October 14, 2008 in New York, NY 10268 and a notice was left. It can be redelivered or picked up at the Post Office. If the item is unclaimed, it will be returned to the sender."
Although my label said "10270" for the zip code, this second address did not accept my package either:
70 Pine Street, New York, NY 10268.
The third US Postal online "track and confirm" report stated: "Your item was delivered at 10:40 am on October 15, 2008 in New York, NY 10268."
If you look up "10270" on the US Postal Service website, it classifies this zip code as "not acceptable" for New York, NY. When I enter "70 Pine Street, New York, NY 10270" on Google Maps, the search result indicates that the only currently correct zip code for that address is "10005."
It seems that the AIG offices at 70-80 Pine Street in New York, NY were giving the USPS a run-around regarding my package. Although they finally accepted my certified package in New York on October 15th according to the USPS, I also decided to call a toll free number (that I happened to find within a paragraph on the second page of my copy of their proposal letter from Jacksonville, Florida) to get further verification of a timely cancellation on October 16th. Over the phone, they cancelled the offer and gave me a confirmation number.
Without any notification on their part, it had taken AIG until November 4, 2008 to finally refund the full $119.85 to my WAMU bank account. In the meantime, I sent copies of a written complaint to state attorney general's offices in NY, FL, and WA, as well as submitting an online report to the Federal Trade Commission. On their consumer complaint forms, all of these state offices feature the question, "Did you sign anything?" You can probably imagine how foolish I felt at this point.
Between October 16th and November 4th, the only communication I had received from AIG was yet another proposal they mailed to me on October 30, 2008 regarding an "accident" policy for (guess what...) $9.95 per month. This package named the "coverage effective date" as July 22, 2008. After what I had just gone through with AIG, I had absolutely no interest in having anything further to do with that company at all whatsoever. As soon as I received my full refund from AIG on November 4th, I immediately transferred all remaining funds to another bank account and closed my WAMU account.
I received satisfactory responses from all state attorney general's offices concerned. The office in NY forwarded my complaint onto the NYS Insurance Department Consumer Service Bureau. On February 13, 2009, I received a letter from that Insurance Department, which provided me with a copy of a letter sent to them from an AIG representative, Kathy Ricard, on January 23, 2009.
In this AIG letter to NYS, Kathy Ricard started off by emphasizing that I am a resident of Colorado, and claimed that "this matter is not under the jurisdiction of the New York Insurance Department." I find this to be very peculiar since their surprise bait-n-switch proposals mailed from Jacksonville, Florida to me on September 26th and October 30th required that I either mail or personally hand a particular certificate physically back to them...in New York rather than a local office within or near the Denver area of Colorado...if I hoped to have the offers cancelled within a 30-day deadline and a refund returned to my bank account. (Never mind the accumulated expense of postage.)
Kathy Ricard of AIG included a paragraph in the letter that stated: "Specifically, according to the enrollment form Ms.XXXXXXX completed, she authorized the Program premiums to be automatically debited from her WAMU checking account. NUFIC mailed written confirmation of this enrollment to Ms.XXXXXXX on August 1, 2008, and her effective date under the program was September 19, 2009."
The typo year of "2009" is her mistake...not mine.
Ricard's claim that I "completed an enrollment form" is astonishing. As I indicated above, I simply signed a promotional one-page flyer (that referred solely and specifically to $9.95 per month "disability" coverage) and mailed it back just to receive "more information" in response to their specific instructions. I never filled out any kind of application beyond providing a signature; I never knowingly signed any kind of fully informative contractual agreement; and above all, I never "authorized" them to debit $39.95 per month from my bank account.
Also, I never received anything at all from AIG or NUFIC in August. They did not mail anything to me until September 26, 2008. If they HAD mailed such a proposal to me in August, they would have received the same response from me in August as they had during the month of October. If they actually did mail a written confirmation to me on August 1, 2008, this means that they would have snatched the $119.85 from my bank account just as suddenly (around August 7th or so) as they had in September-October but this had never happened. Hmmm, interesting.
In her letter to NYS, Kathy Ricard of AIG also claimed that I did not contact NUFIC to cancel until October 16, 2008: "The written confirmation included a Group Accident Insurance Certificate that outlined the terms of the Program. Ms.XXXXXXX did not contact NUFIC to cancel her coverage under October 16, 2008, which was after her coverage effective date and after NUFIC had collected the first quarterly premium of $119.85."
The typo word "under" is her mistake...not mine.
I have printouts and copies of extensive documentation to reveal that this reference to "October 16th" is a lie. Luckily on October 16th, I just happened to make an "on second thought" phone call to try to get enough verification to be on the safe side. This was only after I scrutinized their two-page cover letter to find a toll free number buried within a paragraph on the second page. However, their "RIGHT TO EXAMINE THIS CERTIFICATE" requirement for cancellation does not mention anything about making any telephone calls. This was the only reason why mailing their certificate back was the priority.
In the very next paragraph, Ricard proceeds to contradict her previous paragraph: "In accordance with the Program's Right to Examine provision, NUFIC agreed to refund this premium and to treat Ms.XXXXXXX's coverage under the Program as never effective."
Right after Ricard tried to create an illusion that I did not contact AIG in time to cancel within my 30-day deadline (by not mentioning it at all); her very next paragraph indirectly admitted that I did, in fact, comply with their provision. So much for AIG credibility.
On top of AIG's sleazy bait-n-switch game, and their underhanded way of tricking me into giving them my signature, Kathy Ricard seems to have no compunction about lying to state officials about the details of their operation. I have just read online that AIG is now even being nicknamed "the new Enron." As one private individual consumer and taxpayer to all other fellow private individual consumers and taxpayers, I am not surprised that the US Fed Gov has taken over AIG in their recent $85 billion bailout deal. In spite of this, though, I doubt that I will ever trust such a promotion from any company again...even if it happens to be a large and established company with a household name I had grown up constantly hearing. Also, it will not be possible to get my signature on anything at all that is part of any kind of promotional advertisement.
To conclude, I hear in the news that various governments in Europe are complaining that "protectionist" thinking in the US could turn the worldwide recession into a worldwide depression, repeating the 1930's. What I mean is, "only buy American" or "only buy local." Although I agree with the wisdom of those more global-oriented countries, I am sad to admit that, to protect myself as an individual from companies such as AIG and WAMU, I will never buy optional forms of insurance from anyone that I cannot meet face-to-face on a strictly local basis.
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