| SOUTH AFRICA

1Life to refund pensioner after unexplained policy deductions

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“They said one of my children signed me up, but I have never heard of the person with that name”

Photo of pensioner
Pensioner Jakobus Fortuin is to be refunded for deductions from his social grant for a 1Life funeral policy he did not sign up for. Photo: Barbara Maregele
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Op-die-Berg resident Jakobus Fortuin realised something was wrong when he discovered deductions against his old age grant for a funeral policy he didn’t want and hadn’t bought.

The 66-year-old lives in a small town near Ceres in the Western Cape and has worked on farms in the area most of his life. Fortuin said that he took out two loans from Moneyline — the Net1 company responsible for loans — in 2015 and 2016. He was then given an EasyPay Everywhere account or “green” card.

Net1 is the parent company of Cash Paymaster Services which distributes over 17 million social grants on behalf of the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA). EasyPay, another Net1 company, issues green cards and mandatory funeral policies with SmartLife to social grant recipients who apply for loans from Moneyline.

In 2015, GroundUp reported on a case where social grant beneficiaries in Franschhoek said they had been coerced into taking funeral policies, also by a broker selling 1Life products.

Fortuin told GroundUp that when he had repaid his loans, he noticed that small amounts were still being deducted from his R1,600 grant each month. After numerous fruitless calls to the Net1 call centre, Fortuin had to travel to the nearest Net1 office in Worcester about 45km away.

“When I got to the Worcester office they told me the deductions were for policies with 1Life, Emerald Life, electricity and airtime. The others were stopped, but I had to go back [to the Worcester office] when I still wasn’t getting my full grant the next month,” he said.

Fortuin said he was shocked when the teller informed him that the deductions were for a 1Life funeral policy, which he had no recollection of getting.

“I have no idea how they got my details. When I phoned them, they said one of my children signed me up, but I have never heard of the person with that name. I have five sons, but none of them have the name they gave,” he said.

Fortuin said the Witzenberg Rural Development Centre helped him and the deductions stopped in June. He said 1Life promised to pay his money back. He expected a refund of R1,500.

“But I’m still waiting,” he said.

In June, Fortuin was among a group of beneficiaries from Ceres and other surrounding towns who cancelled their EasyPay accounts during an event hosted by the Black Sash and the Witzenberg Rural Development Centre. He said that July was “the first time in nearly two years” that he received his old age grant in full.

In response to questions by GroundUp, 1Life confirmed that Fortuin’s funeral policy had been sold by a broker on 1 January 2016. 1Life said the policy had been cancelled on 4 July 2017 after “the client indicated that he was unaware” of signing up for it.

“While liability and recourse of any mis-selling of products lies with the brokerage concerned, we have taken a stance to fully refund all premiums paid by the client. The client’s refund was processed on 22 August 2017,” said the company.

1Life said the agent who sold Fortuin the policy no longer worked for the brokerage and would no longer be allowed to sell 1Life products.

But on Monday, 28 August, Fortuin said that he had not yet been paid.

Marieta Hartzenberg of the Witzenberg Rural Development Centre said Fortuin’s case was not unique. “SASSA beneficiaries visit our office regularly and also phone us wanting to cancel these funeral policies. Most people say they had no choice but to sign up for it because they needed the money [loan],” she said.

Hartzenberg said the most common complaints by social grant beneficiaries with SASSA cards were about deductions for airtime and electricity, while those with green cards mostly complained about unwanted insurance policies.

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TOPICS:  Social Grants

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