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Hong Kong virtual insurers need to be ‘extra user-friendly’ – Consumer Council

The council urged the industry to enhance website functions and improve the disclosure of privacy policies to enhance consumer confidence in virtual insurance products.

Certain Hong Kong virtual insurance companies had less user-friendly website interfaces, and responses from chatbots were often irrelevant or similar to information found through website searches, findings showed by the Consumer Council. 

Additionally, only one company clearly specified the retention period for consumers' personal data, while the remaining three lacked transparency in disclosing such information. 

The Consumer Council conducted a survey on the websites of four licensed virtual insurance companies, focusing on chatbot services, application form interfaces, personal data practices, and privacy policies. 

The Consumer Council urged the industry to enhance website functions and improve the disclosure of privacy policies to enhance consumer confidence in virtual insurance products.

All four virtual insurance companies licensed by the Hong Kong Insurance Authority (IA) provided medical or critical illness protection, with three offering Voluntary Health Insurance Scheme (VHIS) Standard Plans. 

Two companies engaged in "long-term business," offering life insurance products, while the other two focused on "general business," offering products such as home protection and pet insurance.

Regarding chatbots, one company did not provide this service, while two others offered chatbots that provided answers similar to website search results. The remaining company's chatbot had difficulty recognizing keywords, resulting in irrelevant responses. 

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The council recommended improvements to enhance the overall customer experience.

The survey also compared the convenience and authentication standards of VHIS application interfaces. 

Whilst all three companies requested basic personal information, differences were noted in the identity verification process. The council recommended improvements to ensure a consistent and user-friendly experience.

Concerns were raised about the ambiguity of information on data retention periods in the privacy policies of the surveyed companies. Only one company clearly stated a seven-year retention period under normal circumstances, while the others lacked specificity. The Consumer Council advised consumers to carefully review the privacy policies and noted variations in terms and conditions, especially regarding objections to marketing.

Premium discrepancies were observed among VHIS Standard Plans, with differences of over 70% for the same age group. The Council encouraged consumers to be cautious and not assume comparability solely based on coverage.

To protect privacy and avoid disputes, consumers were advised to pay attention to cybersecurity, read terms and conditions thoroughly, be aware of policy expiry dates, assess actual needs before purchasing policies, and carefully consider privacy policies when indicating preferences for data use in marketing or promotions.

 

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