How to complain about your insurance company
Some insurance companies have a terrible reputation when it comes to making a claim and dealing with them can be like riding at a brick wall. Here’s how you complain about your insurance company.
Many insurance companies play ball and have fantastic claims-handling processes. Many do not and will try everything they can by fair means or foul to reduce their liability. Which means, to avoid losing out, you need to play things by the book. Here’s what you should do.
Read the small print carefully
Insurers will often reduce or even dismiss a claim, legitimately, using clauses in the policy. For example, if you haven’t kept up the service schedule (or are simply missing stamps from the service book), the insurer can reduce the payout by 5% (or whatever the policy states) due to the bike being worth less as it hasn’t been maintained properly.
Before you do anything else in a dispute, read your policy in detail. It could save you a lot of wasted time (and possibly money) in the long run if you find that the insurer has covered themselves.
Sometimes it’s possible to find yourself dealing with a policy that has changed – The insurer has realised a clause costs them money and has changed current policies. But your policy may predate the change. The contract you have is the contract the insurer issued, so even if they have updated their policies, they have to abide by the one issued to you.
It’s also possible that the policy has been worded badly and the claims handler has misinterpreted the clause.
More commonly, it’s also possible that the claims handler has just got things wrong or there has been a breakdown in the insurer’s system – perhaps you were entitled to a rental bike within 24 hours of the accident but one still hadn’t arrived three weeks later. In this case, you need to look at the next step.
Another issue could be you have not entered information properly when taking out the policy. This does not mean the insurer can simply throw your claim out. See this article for more on this.
Put everything in writing
Every single piece of communication you have with the insurer, even the phone calls, is worth getting down in writing, at least in basic note form. This will become vital in later stages of the process when the accuracy of the information you supply to a regulatory body will be important.
Before you involve third parties like the relevant ombudsman, you should write first to the insurer, explaining your grievance in as much detail as possible.
It’s not unheard of at this stage for insurers to settle quickly just to get the complaint out of their system – handling complaints is not profitable for them. However, this is less likely for expensive claims.
It’s also important that, if you do go to the Financial Ombudsman, to show that you have given the insurer at least eight weeks to respond to your complaint. Until you have done this, the Ombudsman might not take things further.
Contact the Financial Ombudsman
The Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) looks after complaints about insurers and they have the power to award up to £150,000 against a company.
If your insurer either fails to respond, fails to resolve or rejects your complaint after first writing to them, you can take up the complaint with the FOS. Remember, you need to give the insurer at least eight weeks after writing to them before you start a FOS claim.
You can make a claim using the FOS website: http://www.financial-ombudsman.org.uk/consumer/complaints.htm At the same link you can also download a copy of the form to email it to them instead.
You can also call them and they can send you a claim form: 0800 023 4567.
Once your claim is submitted it usually takes the ombudsman a few weeks for them to respond. It will take longer if your case is complicated.
If the Ombudsman finds in your favour, you should receive the amount claimed. You may also be awarded compensation for any distress caused and you might also be awarded any costs you have incurred.
Court as a last resort
Generally speaking, if the Financial Ombudsman doesn’t find in your favour then that is the end of the road.
However, if you feel strongly that the finding is unfair, perhaps based upon a technicality that you couldn’t have been expected to know about when buying the policy, you might want to consider taking the matter to the Small Claims Court, which is suitable for claims up to £10,000 in England and Wales and £3,000 in Scotland.
There are costs involved: https://www.gov.uk/make-court-claim-for-money/court-fees. If you are claiming for a large amount, say for a high-end sports bike, the cost to take it to court is 5% of the claim amount.
The question you should ask yourself, or perhaps a solicitor, is whether the claim is likely to be successful, especially if the FOS has already ruled in favour of the insurance company.
Get Yourself sorted:
The top tip in any insurance claim and any subsequent dispute process is to keep notes on everything.