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Seeing red over $5 dispute

February 3rd, 2010 at 01:05 pm

I've had both my homeowners and car insurance policies with MetLife for 14 years now. In all that time, I've maintained a clean driving record and have never filed a claim on either policy. I figure they've made a lot of money off me for basically shuffling some papers around and issuing me a bill every now and then.


So, after paying for my car insurance last month, I was surprised to receive what looked like another bill from them today. It was a bill for a $5 "processing fee."

Now if you know anything about me, you know i can't stand nickel and dime processing fees. Most poor saps don't have the time or energy to challenge them, and so banks, credit card companies and yes, insurance companies, reap millions in petty fees, most with no legitimate reason.

Like most insurance companies, MetLife offers you a choice: you can either pay for the next 6 months of insurance in full, or you can pay in four smaller, equal installments. If you choose the installments, though, a $5 processing fee will be tacked on to each payment, effectively increasing your premium by $40 over the course of the year.

In other words, those people who can least afford it get victimized with additional fees.

But back to my case. Why, I wondered, were they trying to charge me an extra $5 when I paid my car insurance in full last month, as I have done for the past 14 years?

I got on the phone and argued with a customer service rep with a funny accent who didn't offer much insight but kept insisting I must pay the processing fee.

It was only after I escalated it to her supervisor that I got to the bottom of it. You see, I always take MetLife's safe driver discount course. Once you pass, you get 10% off your car insurance for 3 consecutive years. When those 3 years are up, you can repeat the exam and continue to enjoy the discount.

So when I got my bill for the car insurance last December, I quickly saw that the amount was higher than what I was used to paying, and I realized that was becus my 3 years of discounted insurance due to the safe driver course had passed. Since the bill wasn't due for another 4 weeks, I quickly called to order the safe driver course ($25), which is sold by another company that works with MetLife to administer the exam. The booklet came in the mail, I took the exam that day and mailed it in immediately. About a week later, I received a certificate in the mail saying I'd passed the course.

I then called Met Life to doublecheck what the amount of my premium would be after the safe driver discount was applied. She confirmed it for me, even though MetLife had increased my premium, and the premiums for all those who live in my state, despite my perfect driving record. (Grit teeth here.) I then said, is it ok if i mail in a copy of the certificate along with my payment for the car insurance? She said, do you have a fax machine, cus you can fax it. I said no, I don't have a fax machine. She said, OK, then you can mail it with your check.

It wasn't until speaking with MetLife's conflict resolution specialist today that I learned that the reason for the $5 processing fee was becus the safe driver certificate needs to go to one place for processing, while my payment for the insurance went to another location. That's why they assessed the $5 processing fee.

(She also gave me some baloney about my account having the option of installment payments checked off, despite my never having used that option, or being asked whether I wanted that option. I'm sure it's the software program's default option.)

I argued with the conflict resolution specialist further, becus fact is, when i spoke with the MetLife rep back in December, she didn't say it was necessary to mail the safe driver discount certificate to a different location. She said it was fine to mail it with my check.

So becus of the stink I raised and my threat to sever my relationship with them over a stupid $5 fee, the conflict resolution specialist said she'd remove the $5 processing fee.

I guess they figure that 90% of customers would never bother to dispute a $5 extra fee, and even if the 10% who do like me cause a big headache for the unfortunate rep being paid a low salary and who has to deal with them, the corporation is still making big profits on those who let it slide and continues to reward its upper echelon executives with fat bonuses, you know, those people who never have to deal with an angry customer/

That's corporate America for you. The kind of thing that burns me up. The whole paperwork thing was all automatically computer-generated, I'm sure, and a thinking human being didn't actually look at the situation to consider whether it was fair or correct to charge this customer a $5 fee, so i had to stress myself out to win that small battle.

5 Responses to “Seeing red over $5 dispute”

  1. creditcardfree Says:

    I'm glad you complained. I bet the rep you spoke with in December doesn't even know that such a fee would be charged for sending your items together. Just my experience as a customer service rep.

  2. gamecock43 Says:

    I am glad you took the time to complain. you kept the complaints department employed, saved $5, and earned a small victory.

  3. ceejay74 Says:

    Good for you. I will hound companies forever over charging more than I agreed, even if it's less than a dollar more. I don't mind paying the price for products and services, but like you, I won't let them get rich off of sneaking in small amounts. If more people took up their time complaining about it, it would no longer be profitable and they'd stop doing it.

  4. Ima saver Says:

    You did the right thing, for sure!

  5. frugaltexan75 Says:

    Good for you, getting the charge removed!

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