HK virtual insurers urged to review privacy policy disclosure to protect consumer rights

Some website interfaces were considered less user-friendly

HK virtual insurers urged to review privacy policy disclosure to protect consumer rights

Insurance News

By Kenneth Araullo

A recent Consumer Council survey of four licensed Hong Kong virtual insurance companies highlighted several areas needing improvement, including chatbot services, application form interfaces, and clarity regarding personal data retention.

The survey revealed that the website interfaces of some virtual insurers were less user-friendly. Chatbot responses were often irrelevant or similar to information policyholders could find themselves.

Notably, only one company explicitly stated the retention period for consumer personal data, raising concerns about transparency in the industry. The council urged the industry to enhance website functionality and improve privacy policy disclosures to bolster consumer confidence in virtual insurance products.

All four surveyed companies, licensed by the Hong Kong Insurance Authority (IA), provide medical or critical illness protection, with three offering Standard Plans under the Voluntary Health Insurance Scheme (VHIS). The product range varied, with two companies focusing on long-term business, including life insurance, and the other two offering general insurance products like home and pet insurance.

Virtual insurers in Hong Kong found lacking in some areas

The online nature of virtual insurance necessitates effective web page design and clear information presentation. Among the four companies, one lacked a chatbot service, relying instead on messaging software for customer service interactions. The chatbots of two companies could handle basic inquiries, but their responses often mirrored information available through website searches. The remaining company’s chatbot struggled with keyword recognition, providing irrelevant information. This underscores the need for virtual insurance companies to improve online customer experiences.

The survey also assessed the user experience in applying for VHIS Standard Plans, including policy detail searches and application processes. Under the IA’s guidelines, insurance underwriters must verify clients' identities. The companies varied in their identity verification methods, with some requiring only a Hong Kong Identity Card number and others necessitating additional document uploads and selfie videos for authentication.

The companies adhered to the “Standardised Underwriting Questionnaire” for VHIS Plans, resulting in similar health declaration requirements. However, there were discrepancies in questions about non-prescribed drug use and hazardous activities. Two companies inquired about the frequency and nature of such activities, while one displayed a message indicating ineligibility for online application if hazardous activities were planned.

Application convenience also varied. Two companies offered a “Save Progress” function, while the third's form was less user-friendly, requiring a complete restart if left idle for too long. For VHIS claims, two companies facilitated online submissions, but the third required forms to be downloaded and submitted via email or post.

Concerning findings on data retention

The survey's findings on data retention were concerning. Only one company clearly stated a seven-year retention period for personal data, while the others were vague about their retention policies. The purposes for retaining personal data were broadly defined, including legal obligations and statistical use, making it hard to ascertain how long data would be kept post-policy termination.

Moreover, the survey highlighted variations in terms used in the companies' Personal Information Collection Statements regarding marketing. Consumers are advised to read these terms carefully to avoid unintentional consent to data use in marketing.

Regarding VHIS Standard Plans, the survey found significant premium differences for the same age group among the three companies, with variations as high as 74% for males aged 15 days and over 55% for women aged 80 years.

The Consumer Council advised consumers to be vigilant about cybersecurity, thoroughly understand terms and coverage before policy purchase, and be mindful of policy expiry dates, especially with virtual insurers lacking intermediary reminders. Additionally, consumers should assess their needs and financial situations before committing to long-term policies and remain attentive to privacy policies, especially regarding data use for marketing purposes.

What are your thoughts on this story? Please feel free to share your comments below.

Related Stories

Keep up with the latest news and events

Join our mailing list, it’s free!