In the matter between Martha Bitterbos and Miriam Maketlo t/a Jo-Meri Funeral Services

The complainant, Mrs Martha Bitterbos, a female of adult age, whose full details are on file in this Office, lodged a complaint against Miriam Maketlo, an adult female sole proprietor who trades under the name Jo-Meri Funeral Services. The regulator’s records confirm that the respondent has never been registered as a financial services provider.

During February 2013 the complainant, with the assistance of the respondent, concluded an agreement with KGA Life Ltd. The agreement entailed the provision of funeral cover, with one of the lives assured being the complainant’s aunt, an adult female who was unemployed and wholly dependent on the complainant. The complainant’s aunt subsequently passed away during April 2015; however, the complainant’s claim was ignored by the respondent, causing the complainant to fund the funeral expenses out of her own pocket. Despite undertakings made by the respondent, the complainant did not receive the funeral benefit as promised, and she turned to this Office for assistance in November 2015 to receive the full amount of R10 000, being the benefit promised in terms of the contract.

The complaint was referred to the respondent for resolution with her client in terms of the Rules on Proceedings of this Office; however the respondent did not resolve the complaint with the complainant, and a further notice in terms of section 27 (4) of the FAIS Act, was also ignored by the respondent. During the investigation of the complaint, this Office established from KGA Life Ltd that the agreement between it and Jo-Meri Funerals had been cancelled on 1 December 2014, following respondent’s failure to pay the agreed premiums. KGA Life Ltd provided this Office with a letter dated 1 November 2014 in which it informed the respondent of its intention to cancel the agreement effective 1 December 2014, in the event the respondent failed to pay the premiums for the months of October and November 2014. There is no evidence that the respondent had any other underwriter involved in her business, notwithstanding the continued collection of premiums from her clients.

Having regard to the circumstances of the complaint, which included proof from complainant of the payment of 22 premiums up to the passing of her aunt, this Office accepted the validity of the complainant’s claim against the respondent. The respondent was therefore under an obligation to pay the complainant the benefit in terms of the agreement, and the Ombud ordered the respondent to pay the complainant an amount of R10 000.