On this Blog we have emphasized the need to protect vehicles by focusing on car security systems. But are these systems compliant with the requirements of car insurers and can we trust our motor manufacturers to have installed the correct systems to meet the standards of our insurance companies?
I have been alerted to recent articles by Neesa Moodley-Isaacs on this topic and am alarmed at the risks to be found in the ambiguity and confusion in the certification of car security systems. It appears that not all factory fitted alarm systems comply with the applicable standards according to all industry bodies. This is something that deserves the attention of all vehicle owners!
The security systems that motor manufacturers fit to vehicles are rated, and the rating is one of the factors that influences the premiums that an insurer charges. Insurers use, as an underwriting tool, these rates of the effectiveness of the factory-fitted security systems of cars manufactured since 1996. Few consumers will be aware that these rates are accessible – but at a cost!
I have to agree with Charles Pillai, the Ombud for Financial Services Providers, that it is a ridiculous requirement that consumers have to pay for a copy of such a list in times when we strive towards transparency in the financial services industry! It is not in the interest of the consumer that there is confusion about the car insurance and the different security measures required by different insurers.
Car Security Systems and the Insurance Dilemma
The confusion and dilemma presented by the lack of conformity is best described with reference to an actual decision by the Ombud for Short Term Insurance on this topic.
Facts & Decision:
Pillai ruled that Marinus de Jong of Gauteng be paid R44 140 plus interest of 15.5 percent from August 29, 2006 after his broker failed to inform him of a security requirement when his car insurance was switched from Santam to Mutual & Federal. De Jong’s insurance claim was subsequently turned down.
De Jong insured his 1995 VW Jetta with Santam in February 2005 through a broker. The Santam policy required that the car be fitted with an immobiliser approved by the Vehicle Security Association of South Africa (Vesa).
In June 2006, Bester transferred De Jong’s insurance to Mutual & Federal and cancelled the Santam policy. De Jong was not told that the cover with Mutual & Federal was conditional on the car getting fitted with a gear lock approved by the ABS (Accredited Bureau for Security) within two weeks of cover commencing.
The car was stolen on July 29, 2006. De Jong’s claim was turned down by Mutual & Federal because he had not fitted the car with the ABS-approved gear lock. The car did not have a Vesa-approved gear lock either but Volkswagen South Africa confirmed that the factory-fitted alarm system met the required security standards. Saia, on the other hand, did not recognise the factory-fitted alarm system as an approved device.
Without going into further detail – it is important to remember that the Ombud decided in favour of the uniformed vehicle owner.
Role Players in the Vehicle Security Industry / Industry Bodies
But who are these industry bodies that regulate or certify vehicle security systems? Vehicle owners need to be aware of the following role players and acronyms:
- VSS – The Vehicle Security System (VSS) list covers 95 to 100 percent of cars currently on the road. This is not a uniform list but rather a guideline to be used as an underwriting tool.
- SAIA – The South African Insurance Association (SAIA) outsourced the administration of the VSS list
- SAIAS – The South African Independent Accreditation Services (SAIAS) administers the VSS list.
- NAAMSA – The National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (NAAMSA) and SAIA have drawn up the VSS list as an underwriting tool in terms of an agreement between them and introduced this in 1996 amid growing pressure from insurers.
- VESA – Vehicle Security Association of South Africa.
- The Ombud for Short Term Insurance has sent a copy of his ruling on the security system dilemma with a request to address the confusion to the South African Insurance Association (SAIA), the Financial Services Board (FSB) and the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers (NAAMSA).
How does the Vehicle Security System (VSS) list work?
- Vehicle manufacturers submit lists of the security features fitted at factory level to different models of cars to Saias.
- The South African Independent Accreditation Services (SAIAS) checks and rates the effectiveness of the security systems, which include immobilisers and transponders (keys with a microchip that contains a special code that works only in your car).
- The rating takes into account various factors, such as whether the security features are linked to control the engine and how effective the factory-fitted security system is.
- The cars are then rated on a points system, and the VSS rating list is distributed to insurers via the South African Insurance Association.
- The VSS rating of your factory-fitted security system is one of the factors that an insurer considers when deciding if your car needs an additional security device, such as a gear lock or a tracking device.
- The VSS list is not the sole reference for insurers, nor is it the only factor that influences the cost of your premium.
- The VSS list includes cars manufactured locally and imported cars.
Which vehicles are on the VSS list?
Vehicles on the VSS list include Alfa, Audi, Bentley, BMW, Cadillac, Chery, Chevrolet, Daimler Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Citroen, Mitsubishi, Daewoo, Daihatsu, Fiat, Ford, Hyundai, Hummer, Isuzu, Jaguar, Kia, Landrover, Lexus, Lotus, Mahindra, Mazda, Mercedes Benz, Nissan, Opel, Peugeot, Proton, Renault, Saab, Seat, Smart, Subaru, Suzuki, Tata, Toyota, Volkswagen and Volvo.
Advice for Vehicle Owners
Vehicle owners need to do their homework and enquire about the security devices required by the insurer when buying a car or when switching insurers. Failure to install the required security devices can result in insurance claims being turned down.
It is important to communicate with the car insurer. Do not wait for the car insurer – rather be pro-active in making enquiries! Ask for and gain confirmation about specific details of any security requirements and how these requirements affect your cover.
When you take out car insurance or switch insurers, you may be asked to take your car to an auto assessment centre, where the security features are verified. This cost of the assessment is usually covered by the insurer. If your broker provides advice about the required security system, ask for such advice in writing and confirmation that your security system meets the requirements.
The good news is that the confusion might soon be something of the past. The Ombud for Financial Services Providers, Charles Pillai, has called for standard published information on security devices including gear locks and immobilisers. He has recommended that car manufacturers, the FSB and SAIA meet to thrash the apparent anomaly to ensure that consumers who have factory-fitted alarm systems are not left to the whim of either insurers or SAIA itself when it comes to payment of claims.
Consumer protection requires that the ambiguity be removed in favour of a common list of the security devices required by insurers. Vehicle owners deserve full disclosure of all the vehicle security facts and proper advice about anti-theft devices.
Note – Credit also to Neesa Moodley-Isaacs for her stories titled: