Sun Life has the money for a payout, but not the staff or systems, and customer service is terrible: TONY HETHERINGTON investigates
Tony Hetherington is Financial Mail’s chief investigator on Sunday, battling the reader’s corners, revealing the truth behind closed doors and achieving victories for those who haven’t made money. Read below how to contact him.
Mrs PC writes: My parents had a policy from Sun Life Financial of Canada, which became due after they both passed away. The second death was of my mother, early February this year.
The company was notified within a few days, but we are still waiting for payment. It doesn’t respond to emails or pick up the phone after 4pm and despite promising to call back it never does.
The customer service is terrible. We were told the payment was approved in May, but no progress has been made since then. We now wonder if it has the resources.
Increasing delay: Sun Life still had to pay six months after the death of a policyholder
Tony Hetherington replies: The easy part of this situation was to say yes, the company (which is not the same as the UK company called SunLife Ltd) has the money to pay the £126,427 you and your sister owe after the death of both your parents .
It is the internal administration of Sun Life Financial of Canada that has caused problem after problem.
You notified the firm and filed a claim on the policy in February. You called in April and were told there was a backlog of claims.
You called twice in May and received no answer. At the end of May the phone was answered and you were told you would be called back within five days, but no call came. In June, you were told that your claim was pending and would be paid out ‘every day’. But in August, you were told that your claim had yet to be approved.
Later in August, you were told the claim would be “escalated.” But at the end of August you were told that your claim was with ‘the referral team’ because of its value and that it would have to be settled in the following days, which of course it wasn’t.
I took all this to Sun Life Financial and asked what was causing such a serious backlog of claims. I asked the company to explain why you were told in August that your claim was pending approval, when you were already told in June that it was in line to be paid.
The answers are a mixture of technical failure and human error. The company told me, “In November 2021, we completed the migration of our customer and policy administration to a new system.”
It involved a transfer of over 470,000 records and was not entirely successful, requiring some policy values to be calculated manually, which in turn meant finding and recruiting skilled personnel. This led to a backlog. But why has your claim been delayed for so long?
I was told: ‘Mrs C’s example is exceptional and very unfortunate because we should have paid this compensation claim in June.’
Given its high value, your claim had to be approved by a senior official. The records showed that this authorization had been requested, but in fact your claim was never passed on to the correct person. The company told me, “This is the result of human error. We will learn from this.’
After I contacted you, Sun Life Financial contacted you to apologize. It has now paid £127,015 including interest, and has separately sent you a check for £500 to apologize for the distress and inconvenience.
If you believe you have been the victim of financial misconduct, please write to Tony Hetherington at Financial Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TS or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Due to the large number of questions, no personal answers can be given. Only send copies of original documents, which unfortunately cannot be returned.