Last month, the insurance regulator asked life insurers to extend the grace period for payment of renewal premiums by an additional window of up to 30 days if policyholders want it. All the major insurance companies including ICICI Prudential Life insurance, SBI Life Insurance have now extended the grace period for paying renewal premiums in March. Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) has also extended the deadline up to April 15, 2020.
"In light of the challenging situation prevailing in the country, IRDAI’s decision to provide an extended time period to pay renewal premiums is a step in the right direction and definitely customer friendly," said Puneet Nanda, deputy managing director, ICICI Prudential Life Insurance Company Limited.
Health insurance companies were asked to extend dates for renewal of insurance policies, which are expiring during the coronavirus lockdown duration, till April 21.
The central government has directed that policyholders whose health insurance policies fall due for renewal during the period on and from March 25 up to April 14, and who are unable to make payment of their renewal premium on time in view of the prevailing situation in the country as a result of COVID-19 are allowed to make premium payment for renewal of policies to their insurers on or before April 21, 2020 to ensure continuity of the health insurance cover, the IRDAI circular said.
"We welcome the prompt measures taken by the regulator in the customer’s interest such as the extension of grace period for paying premiums. We were already prepared for this and have implemented it immediately in order to ensure steady and continuous services to all our customers," said Mayank Bathwal, CEO, Aditya Birla Health Insurance.
Policyholders must pay the renewal premium for the entire period of 12 months from the date it was due, on or before April 21, the circular stated.
When the policy is issued after receipt of premium due on or before the last date indicated above, it will be ensured that the period of cover commences from the date the renewal was due without there being any break in the policy period provided such renewal fell due within the lockdown period, the regulator said.
How insurance companies are working amid lockdown
All general, health and life insurance companies were asked to display information on functioning of their offices and alternate arrangements made by the insurers for premium payments, renewals, claim settlement, grievance submission among others on their websites.
"Keeping everyone’s convenience and safety in mind, we are recommending customers to use digital tools to manage their policy servicing needs like premium payments, policy pay-outs, fund switch, claims or maturity filings etc," said Sanjeev Nautiyal, MD & CEO, SBI Life Insurance.
"Several avenues for payment of renewal premiums have been made available like our website, mobile app, PayZapp, Paytm, BBPS. Also policy transactions and requests can be serviced through our website, mobile app, WhatsApp bot Etty, Elle Chat bot and Facebook messenger," said a spokesperson of HDFC Life.
In a circular, the regulator said: In cases where offices are not functioning (fully or partially) the policyholders shall be notified by SMSes, e-mails,and press release in addition to display boards/pamphlets in the brand offices.
"We are sending messages to keep our consumers updated about the latest changes. We have shared direct links via popular messaging application WhatsApp and SMS where customers can directly make the premium payment. Our Bot also offers information related to policy that the consumer might be anxious to know," said Yusuf Pachmariwala, executive vice president & head of operations, Tata AIA Life.
For claims related to coronavirus, life insurers were asked to settle them expeditiously by developing faster claim settlement processes, IRDAI said earlier.