French-speaking Switzerland – Policyholders angry at their pet insurance

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Between reimbursement delays, exponential rise in premiums, inaccessibility to the telephone and lack of response to letters, several customers complain about the Swiss leader in animal insurance.

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Abdoulaye Penda Ndiaye

Epona SA, the Swiss leader in animal insurance, is highly criticized by its policyholders.

Epona SA, the Swiss leader in animal insurance, is highly criticized by its policyholders.

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For eight years, Chantal found nothing to complain about with Epona, a company that insures all types of animals, from birds to horses. But since 2020, Chelsey, her 10-year-old Staffordshire Bull Terrier, has had some health issues. The insurer’s reaction was quick. “Your claims costs are too high”, justified Epona to double the premium and the deductible from May 2022.

The Swiss leader in pet insurance has given Chantal two options: to accept the proposed adaptations or to terminate the contract. “In ten years, my dog ​​has cost you 1500 fr and you want to make exorbitant, exaggerated and unjustified increases. No fees have yet been reimbursed in 2021. The way you treat your customers is very incorrect,” protested the dog trainer. Similar case for the Fribourgeoise Stéphanie *, owner of a 12-year-old dog. Employed in a veterinary practice, she benefits from substantial discounts for her pet. “The insurance did not take this particular situation into account and claimed that my charges were too high,” she laments.

“I’ve been waiting since October”

The most recurring criticisms are related to customer service failures and refunds. “I have no response to either registered letters or emails. It’s amazing: it’s easier to reach a company based in Singapore than Epona, which is located in Lausanne. Impossible to reach them”, continues Chantal. Nadia*, a Vaudoise owner of two dogs, expects between 4 and 5000 francs in reimbursements. “In 2021, one of my dogs had two heavy operations. Luckily it was in France because in Switzerland the rating would have been much higher. I contacted Epona in October. The first response received dates from December. And since then, I’m still waiting,” laments Nadia.

Between delays in taking charge of claims declarations and various other problems, criticism is raining down on the website of the Fédération romande des consommateurs (FRC), on TV with the RTS program ABE or on social networks. “My file dates from December 2021. I am awaiting my reimbursement for 14 claims. Can someone follow up? No way to contact you. That’s a shame. In addition, I am surprised to receive the invoice for 2022 when I am not yet reimbursed for the 2021 claims ”, challenged an insured person on the Epona Facebook page. In recent days, the former cooperative, which has become an SA, with the Vaudoise Group as majority shareholder, has tried to reassure its customers by announcing a reinforcement of staff to stem the delays in the follow-up of files.

“Passenger delays”

“In 2021, we managed to return to normal processing and reimbursement of all files. This required a considerable effort internally and corresponds to the promises made to our policyholders. This year, passenger delays concerning a very small part of our policyholders occurred”, reacted Julie Besson, director of Epona. “To increase efficiency, we ask our policyholders to use electronic channels to contact us. We understand that this may cause frustration and we apologize for it, but it allows us to focus all our energy on closing the delays as quickly as possible, ”continued the manager.

“There is a key point: all our policyholders have always been and always will be fully reimbursed, even if this sometimes happens with a slight delay.”

Julie Besson, Director Epona

But the thorny problem of reimbursements is not specific to Epona and resurfaces regularly. Already in 2014, an article in Le Matin highlighted the dissatisfaction with animal insurance services. “To collect the bonuses, they are there. But when it comes to repaying the bills, there is no one left,” said a Neuchâteloise indignantly. Almost eight years later, insurance is multiplying but the practices and problems remain.

A Vaudois lawyer specializing in insurance law reminds us that if there is something that no insurer appreciates, it is “the multiplication of claims” or excessive loss experience. If the termination of a private contract on loss remains a legal practice, it is applied differently depending on the insurance. But, according to the expert, as a general rule, what is authoritative are the general conditions of the insurance policy. “When a particular device prevents an insurer from terminating a contract, it can use other tools in order to encourage the insured to look elsewhere. This mechanism is applied for the insured called Bad risks ”, notes the lawyer.

Jessica*, a 40-year-old from Vaud, does not share the criticisms against the insurer. “I had a horse insured with Epona. I had taken all the options. Soon, he experienced health problems. Epona helped me find the right vets. At the age of 22, my horse was very sick. To treat him, the technical platform was in Zurich. Epona told me: “We must do everything to save him”. Unfortunately, my horse’s metabolism would not have allowed him to withstand these interventions. I had to put him to sleep. After that, I received a nice card from my insurer who shared my pain. And all the damages provided for in the contract have been made. I never had to claim anything. With me, Epona fulfilled the contract 100%.”

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