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April 2013    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 39, No. 4   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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DEPP: Off the Recommended List

nobody wrote in to rave about their great service

from the April, 2013 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Whenever we write about dive equipment insurance, we always get a few reader complaints about Dive Equipment Protection Plan (DEPP) and its slow handling of claims. In the February issue, Deane W. Lehrmitt, who handles the DEPP program, explained why DEPP has recently been giving customers the silent treatment (a five-week computer systems failure in November and December), which we didn't buy, nor did many Undercurrent readers, who wrote to share their horror stories.

Some divers have had trouble contacting DEPP long before its systems failure shutdown last year. John Kontnik (London, U.K.) says it was a disaster filing a claim a few years ago when he flooded a remote monitor for an underwater video rig. "DEPP had numerous phone numbers and email addresses, and I had to leave duplicate messages on all. It made no difference, however, as they rarely replied to any messages. It took months and months to settle the claim. DEPP always had an excuse: "We never received the e-mail or phone message," "Our computers are down" or "We are still investigating." I finally went to the Kentucky Insurance Commission, as DEPP is based in that state. I do not know if this helped but I finally was paid for my claim. I dropped the coverage immediately and went with a competitor."

Kristin Farrag (Dundee, IL) also questions DEPP's customer service. "My emails are never answered, and they always say they don't receive them -- and they tell me this is my fault. My phone messages are never returned, and DEPP tells me the 'system' must have dropped it. Every time I call? One time, they told me they sent me my covered equipment list but I had not received it. They told me it was not their fault. A year ago, they told me to get my equipmentlist online, which was convenient, but when I went to make changes, I was not able to complete the process. DEPP told me I must be doing something wrong. I finally cancelled in January. When someone finally contacted me by email, I was told my refund would be processed. I haven't seen it, and I'm not holding my breath! "

A few readers say DEPP has no problem acting promptly when it comes to collecting premiums. Jim Rogers (Silverdale, WA) sent them a simple e-mail a year ago, "requesting information on how to remove items from my covered list. I still haven't heard back from them on that subject, but the e-mail I sent requesting how to change an expired credit card for payment was answered within an hour."

Jose Kirchner (Roseville, CA) said, "DEPP continued to charge my credit card of record for coverage though I no longer had need of it (I do not recollect any wording that my coverage was automatically renewable), but they finally went away."

But DEPP does resist paying claims as long as possible, says Jack M. Bernstein (Englewood, OH). "My lenses were stolen between Lima, Peru, and my home. I filed a claim with DEPP, which said to split the claim with my homeowners insurer, Allstate, and they would pick up the deductible. I also filed with the TSA. Allstate paid within two weeks and TSA within four months. DEPP claimed its delay was because it was a theft and not a repair, and it needed a waiver from the state insurance regulatory agency." That correspondence was then supposedly lost. "DEPP finally paid when I threatened to file a complaint for insurance fraud."

Robin Mason (Ithaca, NY) says DEPP battled with State Farm, her homeowners' insurer, about who should cover the loss for her camera and accessories that were stolen from her suitcases on her way home from the Philippines. "Along the way, we had different offices and personnel at DEPP handling (or, rather NOT handling) our claim. It took weeks to get a response to email inquiries, and we were required to submit duplicate documentation to DEPP each time a new person or office took over the case. As it turned out, our homeowner's insurance would have covered the entire loss, less a $500 deductible. DEPP refused to reimburse us for the $500 deductible. In the end, DEPP and homeowners each paid 50 percent of the loss, and we had to eat the deductible. So we were out the cost of the DEPP insurance, and got no additional coverage as a consequence of having had the DEPP coverage. Even once the 'settlement' had been reached, it took DEPP an additional six-plus weeks to send us the check."

Those who've switched from DEPP to other dive gear insurers, particularly Divers Alert Network's insurance option, say experiences with the latter have been far better. Nili Hudson (Los Angeles, CA) was pleased with how DAN handled her claim for a camera when she slipped and fell during an Indonesia dive trip. "I submitted a claim for my loss, and was contacted immediately with a list of items that they needed from me. Once I submitted that list, my check arrived roughly three weeks later. Now compare this to my experience with DEPP. I submitted a small claim for a focus light that fell off my camera while diving. It took me five months, and an untold amount of emails to get any response, although DEPP did contact me to require that I get a notarized document for a claim of $325. How ridiculous is that?"

Bill Schlegel (Jefferson City, MO) dropped DEPP a while back, but it was primarily due to pricing. "Others probably will confirm too that DEPP is expensive. I used to pay about 50 percent more just for equipment coverage with DEPP than I do for equipment coverage and all the other coverages I have with DAN. Another thing, and this is just my speculation, is that DEPP is a fairly small operation for an insurance company. This can be a problem for any insurance company, no matter what it insures. Capitalization and reserve funds are required. Inadequate reserve for payments results in customers being delayed, ignored and eventually alienated as the company tries to juggle income versus payment."

Nobody wrote us to defend DEPP or crow about how fabulous they were treated by the customer service reps. Therefore, we must recommend that if you want insurance for your dive gear, a better alternative is Divers Alert Network's equipment insurance plan ( ). And check with your home insurer -- many firms will cover dive equipment under their homeowner policies.

- - Vanessa Richardson

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