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Tantrums, concubines, hotpot burns and smog: China insurers have it covered

Updated: 2014-09-01 07:25

World Cup "heartbreak"

During the recent soccer World Cup in Brazil, Ancheng and ZhongAn offered policies allowing Chinese customers to pay for protection against over-drinking, being attacked by hooligans and a "Heartbreak" policy for when their favourite team was eliminated. Uptake wasn't huge, but the policies succeeded in winning plenty of media coverage.

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For the industry's regulators, though, some of these policies skirt too close to a Chinese love of gambling. In June, the regulator said it would increase penalties for insurers selling products with "gambling or gaming" properties.

A policy has to offer "meaningful cover" and not just a financial bet, said Guanjun Jiang, a China-based Milliman actuary, adding that a WeChat group with about 100 actuaries and other professionals criticized the World Cup policies as "gimmicks" that didn't adhere to the principles of insurance.

ZhongAn confirmed it sold the World Cup over-drinking and hooligan policies. Ancheng did not respond to requests for comment.

Other attention-grabbing tactics cover Chinese cultural events. Ancheng has a policy covering any medical costs resulting from burns while eating hotpot, a Chinese tradition involving cooking raw meat and vegetables in a boiling pot of soup placed at the centre of the table.

Other Ping An and PICC policies - which were quickly shut down by the China Insurance Regulatory Commission - paid out if city smog levels topped a certain level for a specified period, if customers were hospitalized due to smog, or if tourists spent at least two days in a smoggy city.

And foreign insurers, too, have tried their luck.

During last year's Mid-Autumn Festival, Germany's Allianz teamed up with Alibaba's Taobao insurance to guarantee sightings of the full moon, paying out between 50 and 188 yuan - and in some cases a pack of moon cakes - if bad weather obscured the view.

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