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Load shedding related claims soar: Here’s how to protect yourself

  • Oct 2, 2022
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Source: 
IOL

As South Africans contend with the ever-changing load shedding schedules in the country, and the havoc that the rolling power cuts causes in the lives of many, it is important to ensure your house hold items are protected against load shedding as well.

South African Insurer, King Price, says it has settled more than R21 million in claims in the past 14 months alone due to damages sustained through power surges and dips, most of which were caused by load shedding, and it expects this figure to rise as the country veers between high stages of load shedding territory again.

Wynand van Vuuren, the client experience partner at King Price Insurance, said the claims were registered in the period from 1 July, 2021 to 19 September, 2022, and are all related to power surges and dips that affected buildings, home contents and portable possessions. Lightning-related claims are specifically excluded from this figure.

“We’re getting a growing number of claims for ‘fried’ computer equipment, fridges, TVs and even electrical distribution boards caused by power surges,” said Van Vuuren.

“As a result, we’re asking our policyholders to install surge protectors to protect their appliances, and to make sure their generators and back-up power systems are installed professionally to ensure they’re covered by insurance.”

It’s also important to check your home contents insurance to see if you’re covered for damage from power surges, says Van Vuuren.

In general, consumers should be able to claim these damages directly from their municipality, but this isn’t always viable.

If you’re insured for electrical damage due to power surges and dips, you can claim directly from your insurer, who will then claim from the municipality on your behalf.

According to the Ombudsman for Short-term Insurance (OSTI), 11% of home contents claims disputes in 2020 were related to power surges, and this increased to 16% in 2021.

Some home contents insurance policies don’t include cover for loss or damage caused by power surges, while other policies only cover power surge damage for an additional premium on request.

There are several steps you can take to protect yourself from power outages and surges.

Install surge protectors and UPS

Surge protectors and UPS (uninterruptible power supply) systems can go a long way towards protecting your most valuable appliances.

A UPS allows your appliances to shut down properly when the power goes off, and protects your big ticket appliances from the power surges that often occur when the power comes back on.

“If you can’t afford a UPS, it’s advisable to manually disconnect your more sensitive appliances from the power supply and reconnect them after the electricity is switched back on,” says Van Vuuren.

Use alternative power supplies safely

Alternative power supplies must comply with safety guidelines, and they must be installed by a professional.

Portable generators are relatively cheap and easy to operate, but must be correctly linked to your power supply: simply plugging a generator into a house plug is known as back-feeding, and it’s not only dangerous, but will result in any damage not being covered by insurance.

“Whether you’re using a generator or an inverter, make sure they power your electric fence, gate and alarm as well, as burglars are all too quick to exploit opportunities caused by power outages. If you don’t have an alternative power supply, make sure your fence, gate and alarm have a battery back-up,” says Van Vuuren.

Meanwhile, the country’s biggest insurer, Santam, said earlier this week that it has seen a significant increase of about 60% in claims for damage to sensitive electronic items due to a power surge across its personal insurance and commercial insurance portfolios in the first half of this year, “as reported in our interim results” released on 1 September 2022.

“The reality is, load shedding isn’t going away any time soon, and that damages will occur, but everyone has a responsibility to ensure they are prepared for the power cuts and can take steps to minimise the chance of damage as far as possible,” said Santam Head of Personal Lines Underwriting Attie Blaauw.

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