Sucheta Dalal :Insurance houses present a united front; defy SEBI ban on ULIPs
Sucheta Dalal

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Insurance houses present a united front; defy SEBI ban on ULIPs   

April 12, 2010

For life insurance companies, business continues as usual despite a blanket ban imposed by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) barring them from selling unit-linked insurance policies (ULIPs). All 14 insurance houses barred by SEBI have chosen to defy the order and are continuing to offer ULIP products to customers, while collecting premiums from existing ones also.

Several of these companies have been flooded by customer enquiries, with anxious policy holders desperate to know whether their policies are safe and operational. Even those that have not been named among the 14 companies are getting regular calls from nervy customers.

Following the insurance sector regulator Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority’s (IRDA) go-ahead to continue selling ULIPs, insurance companies have presented a united front in openly ignoring the SEBI diktat. When Moneylife contacted several companies under the pretext of customer enquiries, we were told that ULIP products would continue to be offered until further communication to the contrary is received from the company management. We were also informed that existing holders of ULIPs would face no difficulties and that they would continue collecting premiums as usual.

These companies include AEGON Religare, Aviva Life, Bajaj Allianz, Bharti AXA Life, Birla Sun Life, HDFC Standard Life, ICICI Prudential, Kotak Mahindra, Reliance Life, SBI Life, Tata AIG Life, Max New York Life. Officials from Metlife India and ING Vysya Life could not be reached.

An official from Bajaj Allianz said, “This ban will not affect our customers—existing or new. You can buy new plans or continue paying premiums on existing policies.”

Another official from Bharti AXA Life said, “We will continue to issue new ULIP policies till the time we get a directive to the contrary from our management. Existing policy holders need not be concerned about their policies.”
A representative from Reliance Life reiterated, “Our customers need not worry. ULIPs are regulated by IRDA and not SEBI. As such, we will continue to offer ULIPs to new customers.”

With IRDA firmly standing by insurance companies, the battle between the two financial regulators has taken an ugly turn. SEBI had on Saturday issued a startling order barring 14 insurers from selling ULIPs without its approval. The very next day, IRDA took the market watchdog head-on by challenging SEBI’s ban and stating in its directive, "Notwithstanding the SEBI order, these insurance companies can continue to do business as usual, including offering, marketing and servicing ULIPS." —
Moneylife Digital Team

-- Sucheta Dalal