(Jamaica Gleaner) Bill Express, the vehicle used by conglomerate GraceKennedy and Company Limited to collect utility and other bills for third parties in Jamaica and other Caribbean islands, has pioneered a new insurance service for its customers called Bill Protect.
Bill Protect is free insurance coverage given by the company to pay customers’ electricity or water bills for two months in the event of a disability. This service is applicable only to its Jamaican customers.
It is also being used to attract additional customers and give Bill Express a competitive advantage given that the bill-collections market has become increasingly competitive.
“For customers already with us, it gives them a value-added service to help ease some of the burden,” Sandra Forbes, senior marketing manager at Bill Express told the Financial Gleaner.
“For the people not with us, it gives them a chance to come over to us to get the coverage,” she added.
“No one else can say we will pay your bills when you can’t,” the company said.
Customers are automatically qualified for coverage after three consecutive payments of any three bills using Bill Express.
Then, in the event that a customer becomes disabled, the company will undertake to pay either their NWC or Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) utility bill.
Forbes notes that with approximately 500,000 customers of JPS. and another 300,000 of the NWC, utility bills represent the most commonly paid recurring expense islandwide and represent some 80 per cent of monthly collections at Bill Express locations.
“We can all appreciate the importance of these amenities to families. Light and water are among our basic needs,” said Forbes.
The insurance coverage will be calculated based on the average of the last three months bill, which will be paid for a period of up to two months.
“Mishaps occur in life. Bill Protect is our solution to cushion those mishaps. We are very in tune to the needs of our customers and we understand people want to provide for their families in spite of life’s mishaps,” said Forbes.
She declined to disclose the cost to the company providing this service, but said it would be absorbed solely by Bill Express.
The insurance coverage is being underwritten by Jamaica International Insurance Company, another GraceKennedy subsidiary.
The disabilities taken into consideration are broken limbs, major cuts or lacerations, dismemberment, vision loss or impairment, and ligament or muscle injury.
To make a claim, the customer, in addition to filling out a claim form at any of the 250 Bill Express locations, will also have to present a claim form completed by a medical practitioner.
Bill Express is a product offered by GraceKennedy Remittance Services to complement its suite of products including Western Union and FX Trader, which offers trading in foreign exchange.
Along with Jamaica, its primary market, Bill Express also operates in Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana, and St Lucia.
Other players in the bill-payment market include Paymaster, commercial banks and building societies.