Image of smiling elderly Aboriginal man sitting outside at a table with a hot drink.

The proper mourning of the loss of a family or community member, called "Sorry Business", is of significant importance to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. However, some organisations or individuals may exploit the cultural importance associated with Sorry Business for their own financial gain.

In 2018, the banking Royal Commission revealed that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with limited financial literacy are often targeted for overpriced funeral insurance plans.

Many of these overpriced plans provide minimal benefit for the amount they cost. Also, aggressive sales techniques were found to be used to persuade Indigenous people to buy insurance plans that they didn’t need.

Close up of funeral insurance policy papers, with a silver pen and calculator in the corner.

Kathy Marika

One Aboriginal woman who spoke out about the aggressive sales techniques used by insurance salesman at a hearing in Darwin for the financial services Royal Commission is Kathy Marika, a 60 year old Yolngu woman from Arnhem Land.

She brought to light how an insurance salesman from Lets Insure pressured her into purchasing a funeral insurance plan from the company, despite her insistence to the salesman that she already had funeral insurance through her workplace. The salesman also convinced her to purchase additional policies for her three children as well.

She was also told that she would receive gift vouchers (which never arrived) if she provided the name and contact numbers of all her friends for the salesman to call.

The financial services Royal Commission also heard that Indigenous people were being signed up for funeral insurance plans that they did not give consent to be signed up for.

An investigation undertaken by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) discovered that employees of ClearView Life Assurance were exploiting Indigenous people by signing them up to insurance plans without their consent.

After stating that they did not wish to be signed up for an insurance plan, the ClearView Life Assurance salesperson would ask for and obtain their bank details under the premise that they did not have to pay for anything now. However, they would then find themselves being signed up for insurance plans that they had no intention of signing up to.

Managing Aggressive Salespeople

How do you know if you are being pushed to purchase an unfair or unnecessary funeral insurance plan?

Before you say yes to a salesperson or provide them with any financial information, ask yourself the following questions:

Do I understand what they are offering?

If your knowledge regarding insurance products is limited, it is important to seek help from someone that properly understands them and can assist you in the decision making process.

Are they pressuring me?

When dealing with a pushy salesperson, never make a decision on the spot. Let them know that you are not making a decision today and that you need time to think about what they are offering.

Also, remember that verbal promises are not always kept, so don’t be tempted to say yes on the first call because they verbally offer you a special voucher or prize if you sign up that same day.

Have I done my research?

Always ask your friends and community if they have heard of any issues with the funeral insurance company that the salesperson represents. Take it a step further and search the internet for reviews on the company and their insurance plans.

Remember that you can only do this step if you don’t say yes on the first phone call. Purchasing a financial product without doing any research on the company and what they are offering (e.g. the fine print) may result in you being signed up to a plan that is not in your best interest.

Did they ask for my bank details?

Never prematurely provide the salesperson with your banking information or credit card details unless you have decided to purchase the product.

Handing over your banking or card details before you are sure that you want to sign up or purchase the product on offer can end badly, as was the case with the ASIC investigation into ClearView Life Insurance.

If they do ask for your banking details after you have told them you do not wish to sign up yet, this is an indication that it is a company you may be better off not dealing with.

The ASIC Avoiding Sales Pressure page is a great resource for further tips on dealing with pushy salespeople.


Related resources:

Aboriginal Funeral Assistance Grants NSW
Aboriginal Funeral Transport
Indigenous Consumer Assistance Network (ICAN)
 

Information sourced from:

SBS
The Guardian
Money Smart (Gov)

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people please be advised that there may be images, videos or names of people on this website that are deceased, which may cause feelings of sorrow or sadness.