China's insurers are actively expanding sales channels, offering insurance products, mostly vehicle insurance and short-term incident insurance, online with higher discount rates. But customers should be cautious with the risks of this fledging business mode, experts noted.
Insurance products available online are usually much cheaper because agents are dispensed with, and insurance companies can introduce various promotion terms from time to time.
At present, online services only cover certain insurance products with simple terms and low fees, including short-term accident insurance and auto insurance.
Generally, discounts for online policies range from 10 to 40 percent. For example, policyholders are given a 15 and 20 percent discount on online auto insurance with Ping An Insurance and Taiping Life, while travel insurance provided by Ping An offers discounts as low as 60 percent, according to the insurer's website.
Despite the price advantage of online insurance products, potential risks rising from immature practice and legislation also exist, said Tuo Guozhu, a professor specializing in insurance at Capital University of Economics and Business, adding that the legal validity of electronic signatures used online might be a source of dispute when claiming. After-services can also be a headache because of the absence of an agent.
Customers should keep their information confidential and their money safe when buying policies online and if any confirmation is needed, they can “call the service hotline”, said an employee from the Guangdong branch of China Life Insurance suggest
He said life insurance policies, which requires explanations of complicated terms and a physical examination, is hard to be taken out online.