Insurer forced to pay for stolen cellphone - after arguing that it was left 'unguarded'

Business Insider SA
Cellphone surveillance
  • A South African woman’s cellphone was stolen from her bag while she was on the netball court.
  • Her insurer refused to pay out, contending that she did not safeguard the phone, and that it was left exposed.
  • But the Ombudsman for Short Term Insurance found against the insurer.
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A new recommendation by the Ombudsman for Short Term Insurance (Osti) will be of interest to anyone who has struggled to get money from an insurer after the theft of a cellphone.

Osti investigated a case that involved a woman whose cellphone was stolen from her bag, which was closed, while she was playing netball.

Her insurer rejected her claim, relying on a provision in her policy that states that she needed to “take all reasonable steps and precautions to safeguard the equipment, including but not limited to, ensuring that the equipment is not left exposed in a public place, place of recreation, mall or social occasion where it is vulnerable to easy removal or damage.”

The insurer argued that the cellphone was not safeguarded and it had been left in a vulnerable situation where easy access could be gained to her bag.

READ | Changed your cell number? Your insurer may refuse to pay out if your phone gets stolen

The policyholder then appealed to Osti to review the decision.

Osti found that the ordinary grammatical meaning of the word “exposed” is not “covered or hidden, or visible”.

Since the phone was in the policyholder’s bag, it was not exposed.

“(She) was playing netball and it would be unreasonable for the insurer to expect her to safeguard her bag all the time.”

In the end, the insurer settled the claim after Osti found against it.

But in a statement, Osti noted that this no precedent was created by its latest finding. And last year, it ruled against a policy holder whose cellphone was stolen from a patio table during a braai

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