SM Advantage Card auto-debits points for Philam insurance

James Ryan Jonas

The SM Advantage Card program is playing tricks on us — and it’s not at all amusing.
Last week, we wrote that SM Advantage Card (SMAC) is automatically enrolling members into the Philam Personal Accident Insurance Program by automatically debiting 20 points from one’s account. Offering insurance would have been a real benefit, except that members were not previously made aware of this and the notice on the latest policy was given only three months before it lapses.
leela commented that she initially got an email from SM Advantage Card notifying her of an insurance policy that takes effect September 2008. That was fairly acceptable, but she was surprised when SM wrote again and clarified that the policy had actually started on September 2007, not 2008, and the insurance has only 3 more months remaining coverage. What?!
Our 20-point SM Advantage question: Why are members made aware only now, when the policy is about to lapse?
Earlier this week, Ruth also posted on her blog that SM Advantage apparently had been enrolling her into the insurance program since 2006. Meaning, they had deducted points since then — without her knowledge and permission! — but she was made aware of the insurance only after she recently called SM Advantage. What if she met an accident during that time, she asked. The policy may have been in effect but could have she enjoyed the benefits considering she was not aware of its existence?
Again, our 20-point SM Advantage question: Why does SMAC automatically enroll members into the program without informing them and without even getting permission from them first?
It would have been OK if the program is for free. But members are charged 20 points for something they could not even enjoy. Those 20 points were earned by spending P4,000 so in effect, we paid P4,000 just to get that Philam insurance.
This action by SM Advantage is definitely a manipulative, unfair trade practice.
Ruth shared that she had already complained to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) about this, and we’ll eagerly wait for updates on the issue.
For now, try to check your SM Advantage points balance. We probably don’t know it but SM might have been deducting points of all sorts without our knowledge.

James Ryan Jonas teaches business management, investments, and entrepreneurship at the University of the Philippines (UP). He is also the Executive Director of UP Provident Fund Inc., managing and investing P3.2 Billion ($56.4 Million) worth of retirement funds on behalf of thousands of UP employees.