DEAR TRAVEL TROUBLESHOOTER: My wife and I purchased a tour to Tuscany, Italy, for last October from Overseas Adventure Travel. For an additional fee, we also purchased cancel-for-any-reason insurance from their partner, Allianz. We had to cancel a week before the trip began because my wife broke her ankle. We filed a claim with Allianz and received an email from the insurance company a month later, stating that it had completed its review and “payment details” would be forthcoming from OAT.
Christopher Elliott, the Travel Troubleshooter
We never heard from OAT. When I called them, I was told that we would receive a check in 45 days. We received no check. I called again two months later, and a representative told me that we would receive a check within a month. The check still did not arrive.
I called again. This time, OAT changed its story. A rep told me that Allianz had not completed its processing of our claim.
The next month, I spoke with a representative at Allianz who confirmed that Allianz had indeed completed its processing of my claim three months ago. I informed a supervisor at OAT of this and was assured it would be resolved. I never heard back from the company, so I called again today and was told yet again that I would receive a check next month.
There are two issues here. The first is that OAT, either through incompetence or just deliberately, has delayed our refund for almost five months. The second involves the travel insurance. I was surprised to learn that even though I paid a premium of $1,398 to Allianz, OAT is the beneficiary of the policy, not me. Thus, it appears that Allianz paid OAT, and it chose whether or not to pay me. If this is not illegal, it should be.
We would like the cost of the trip refunded to us as promised. Can you help?
— Howard Gleckman, Kensington, Maryland
ANSWER: I’m sorry to hear about your wife, and I hope she is all healed up by now. Insurance payments of this type should get processed within a month or two, so you should have received a check by now.
I’ve been getting more complaints about these types of delays. With certain travel companies, when you buy travel insurance with your trip, the insurance payment goes to the company, which then pays you. That can create a delay, especially when there’s a second approval process on the company’s side.
The solution? Buy your next travel insurance policy directly from a company like Allianz. That way, if you have to file a claim, it will pay you directly.
But back to your problem. I list customer service contacts for Grand Circle (owner of OAT) and Allianz on my consumer advocacy site, Elliott.org.
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Why did your refund take so long? You were filing a claim during a busy time for both Allianz and OAT. My advocacy organization has been dealing with hundreds of delayed refund cases and insurance claims that dragged on.
The best approach for resolving a tardy insurance claim is patience and persistence — two key elements of what readers have called the Elliott Method. I think you needed to let both companies know of your displeasure. Most of your communication happened by phone, and unfortunately, there’s no way to prove you made any calls unless you recorded them.
I share your discomfort with travel insurance claims getting paid to the company rather than the customer. This practice may be legal, but it surely isn’t equitable — and I don’t see that it benefits the consumer.
I contacted OAT on your behalf. A representative responded directly to me, blaming the delay on a “technical issue in the approved claims process between Allianz and Grand Circle.” You received your check of $10,954.
Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a nonprofit organization that helps consumers solve their problems. Email him at [email protected] or get help by contacting him at elliottadvocacy.org/help/.
(c) 2023 Christopher Elliott
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