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News Room

Is Pet Insurance Elitist, Offensive Or Insensitive?

Jason Snyman
2018-04-02
Pet Insurance has been called elitist, offensive and insensitive. We took a look at what it is and why it isn’t a problem at all.

A few weeks ago, a popular South African newspaper ran an article about pet insurance. Or rather – about one particular lady’s loathing of it. After watching a television advert promoting Dotsure’s unique insurance policies, the viewer became irate and complained to the Advertising Standards Authority about it. She allegedly stated that the advert was offensive and insensitive towards poor people. Madam, you have the voice of an angel, and would you just look at those offensive little faces. Could this just be another case of somebody getting offended on behalf of people who have a lot more to worry about? Perhaps she was being petty and irrational. Perhaps, even, somehow, she had some kind of a point. So, we decided to contact our friends at Oakhurst to get their opinions. Is pet insurance elitist, offensive or racist? 

What Is Pet Insurance?

First, let’s take a look at what pet insurance actually is. Dotsure certainly isn't the only company to offer these products. You'll find more and more popping up all over the country. Some of these companies will insure any pet you could think of. Each of these offer their own unique problems and challenges. For the sake of this article, though, we'll just stick to dogs and cats. Pet insurance, depending on the type of cover, might come in handy when:

Your pet escapes from the yard and damages somebody else's property;

Your pet is hit by a car;

Fido decides to bite the pizza delivery guy;

The pet has any hereditary health conditions;

Your pet suffers from any unforeseen accidents or illness;

Your pet requires vaccinations, deworming, flea control or dental attention.

Some may even offer emergency boarding and kenneling, just in case. As with human insurance, it is important to understand your policies and what they cover. Also, as with unexpected human medical care, veterinary care can really put a dent in your finances. It stands to reason then that people who have pets and care for them would go out and acquire insurance.  

Oakhurst And The ASA Respond To The Complaint

The ASA analysed the viewer’s complaint. The directorate reported that she had argued that many South Africans could not afford food or a home‚ let alone medical insurance.

“She pointed out that this commercial‚ that promotes a product that only the rich can afford‚ is flighted every day in citizens’ faces‚” said the directorate. “Which engenders anger and bitterness in a country that is already battling with racism.”

In response, Oakhurst Insurance Company, which runs Dotsure, said that the complaint was vexatious and frivolous. Oakhurst reportedly challenged the viewer to prove why it was more offensive to poor people than any other advertisement for luxury goods. Are designer fragrances offensive, or the latest smartphones? How about single-malt whiskey or high fashion or holidays to the Bahamas? Are Tag Heuer watches insensitive? Damn you, Tag, with your avant-garde Swiss perfection. Why can't I afford you, expensive thing advertised on TV, is it because you're insensitive? The ASA dismissed the complaint, saying:

“It is undeniable that the advertised product is a luxury good. It appears‚ though‚ that [the viewer] is of the view that because it is a luxury product‚ and of a particular type‚ it should not be advertised. There is no provision that prohibits the promotion of luxury goods. [The viewer] may be offended by people insuring dogs [but] the fact remains that [Dotsure] has identified a target market and the advertised product is legitimate.”

So much for that, then. But we thought we’d ask some questions in anyway.

We Chat To Dotsure About Pet Insurance

The best way to get to the bottom of all of this is to go straight to the source. We spoke to Dotsure about what pet insurance is, how it should be classified and how the company will address the complaints.

How long has Dotsure been going and what made Oakhurst decide to go into pet insurance?

Dotsure itself actually started as an online car insurance provider, underwritten by Oakhurst and has been operating since 2011.We started the pet insurance research process in about 2012/13, but only launched in about 2014/15. The main reason that we decided to go for it was that we could see a clear and consistent rise in veterinary costs. We felt that we could use our extensive experience in insurance to help pet owners to avoid unnecessary financial strain.

How would you classify pet insurance? Is it a luxury product?

It is as much a “luxury product” as owning a pet is a luxury. It is an affordable mechanism for pet owners to protect themselves from the risk of unaffordable vet bills. Our plans start from just R65 p/m. Ironically the complaint came regarding an advert aired on DSTV, a subscription for which now costs nearly R1000 p/m. Perhaps that might be a better example of a luxury?

Tell us a little bit more about the product you offer.

We offer a range of products that cover vet bills arising from anything from accidents and liability (when your pet damages someone else’s property etc), to vaccinations and routine care. We allow the customer to give us an amount that they can afford, and we mould the product around their budget. It’s called Name Your Price™ and it’s the best way to make sure that it is affordable to most loving pet owners, regardless of their financial position.

How many pets has Dotsure insured?

Currently we have tens of thousands of pets covered, but we are growing that number every day. We expect to hit the 100 000 pet mark very soon. People really are seeing the value and responding well.

What is the average cost of cover for each policy holder, and how does this compare to any competition you might have?

Our products start at around R65 and can go up to nearly R380 p/m. We do offer all sorts of discounts and benefits as well though, so it’s really done on a case-by-case basis. There are new entrants to the pet insurance market and it is possible that they might be cheaper in some cases but their cover and conditions are not necessarily adequate. We encourage all prospective buyers to take an objective look around, because we are absolutely certain that we offer the best value across the price spectrum.

In response to pet insurance being labelled as 'elitist' and only affordable by 'rich' people, does Oakhurst have any plans to offer more affordable packages?

Interestingly, before we entered the market, the cheapest option for cover was close to double the price of our most affordable option. Not only did we half the price, but we have more than doubled the demand for pet insurance in the country. Affordability is the whole reason that we created Name Your Price™. We know from experience, that customers are sick of being dictated to about price and cover options. So to answer your question, although we are already amongst the best priced cover on the market, we will always respond to what our customers and their pets need. That’s what makes us different. Better even. We are constantly measuring and adapting, so we will do what they want us to do. If that means a cheaper price point, we will consider it, but we will never compromise on the quality of the cover.

Get cover for your fur baby and compare pet insurance online. Let one of our Gurus help find the best value policy for you.

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