Halifax rebuked over pet insurance

 

The ombudsman has rebuked Halifax after it made a potentially "misleading" claim promising life-long insurance to pet owners.

The landmark decision by the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) could pave the way for thousands more customers who may have believed the cover lasted indefinitely.

Halifax, which is part of Lloyds Banking Group, previously advertised "life-long" pet insurance cover, but last autumn it withdrew from the pet insurance market. It said it is "urgently" working on a solution and will contact customers in the coming weeks.

The ombudsman considered the case of a dog named Lucky which developed a skin condition estimated to cost around £720 a year for the rest of her life.

In a provisional decision, the ombudsman said Halifax should pay Lucky's owner £200 for distress and inconvenience, as well as "top up" cover for any pre-existing condition not covered by Lucky's new insurer for the next three years.

Lucky's retired owner had taken out a Halifax pet insurance policy on her in 2005 when she was two months old and remained a "loyal customer" over the next six years, paying a monthly collected premium initially of about £6 rising over the years to £10, the ombudsman said.

However last year Halifax wrote to Lucky's owner a month before the policy was due to renew, to tell her it was withdrawing from the pet insurance market.

The ombudsman said that if Lucky's owner made alternative arrangements with another insurer, Lucky's pre-existing medical conditions would not be included in the cover, meaning Halifax's decision to withdraw from the market has left Lucky's owner footing the vet bills herself.

Lucky's owner complained to the ombudsman service, arguing that if Halifax cannot continue to supply insurance cover then it should compensate her for future bills and for "significant distress" and anxiety.

The ombudsman partially upheld the complaint in its provisional findings, noting that when Lucky's owner first purchased the policy, it was described on the Halifax insurance website as "life-long cover from as little as £3.50 a month".

The ombudsman said the description of the policy as "life-long" seemed "a significant error by Halifax.

"The policy was not life-long... And it was clearly misleading to suggest that it was - regardless of the fact that this is a common term in similar pet insurance policies," the ombudsman said.

The watchdog said that Halifax was acting within its rights to withdraw from the market and was under no legal obligation to renew the policy at the end of each period of cover.

However it said that had Halifax been clearer in its statements, Lucky's owner would have been able to consider other arrangements.

The watchdog said Halifax could have given customers more notice of its decision to withdraw from the market and had shown "poor communication".

It said Halifax's actions "will have caused unnecessary inconvenience and distress to customers".

Lloyds and the Halifax had around 25,000 to 30,000 pet insurance customers between them and it is thought that between 3,000 and 4,000 of them have pets with pre-existing conditions which could cause them problems getting full cover with a new insurer.

A Lloyds Banking Group spokesman said: "Lloyds Banking Group withdrew from the pet insurance market last year.

"We acknowledge that this decision has caused concern among some customers whose pets have pre-existing medical conditions and are having difficulty finding a new insurer.

"We are urgently working on a solution for customers with pets who have pre-existing conditions and will be contacting them in the next few weeks with our proposals.

"If any customer wants to check if they are affected, they can contact us. We are committed to continuing to support our customers and are sorry for the inconvenience we may have caused."

PA

Arts & Entertainment
Madonna in her music video for 'Like A Virgin'
music... and other misheard song lyrics
News
Waitrose will be bringing in more manned tills
newsOverheard in Waitrose: documenting the chatter in 'Britain's poshest supermarket'
News
The energy drink MosKa was banned for containing a heavy dose of the popular erectile dysfunction Levitra
news
News
Much of the colleges’ land is off-limits to locals in Cambridge, with tight security
educationAnd has the Cambridge I knew turned its back on me?
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Sport
Australia's Dylan Tombides competes for the ball with Adal Matar of Kuwait during the AFC U-22 Championship Group C match in January
sportDylan Tombides was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2011
News
Ida Beate Loken has been living at the foot of a mountain since May
newsNorwegian gives up home comforts for a cave
Extras
indybest10 best gardening gloves
News
Russia's President Vladimir Putin gives his annual televised question-and-answer session
peopleBizarre TV claim
Arts & Entertainment
tvIt might all be getting a bit much, but this is still the some of the finest TV ever made, says Grace Dent
Arts & Entertainment
Comedian Lenny Henry is calling for more regulation to support ethnic actors on TV
tvActor and comedian leads campaign against 'lack of diversity' in British television
News
Posted at the end of March, this tweeted photo was a week off the end of their Broadway shows
people
News
peopleStar to remain in hospital for up to 27 days to get over allergic reaction
Arts & Entertainment
The Honesty Policy is a group of anonymous Muslims who believe that the community needs a space to express itself without shame or judgement
music
News
Who makes you happy?
happy listSend your nominations now for the Independent on Sunday Happy List
Life & Style
life
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

    £150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

    Telesales & Sales Support Apprentice

    £221.25 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a well established Inter...

    Client Relationship Manager - SQL, Python

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Client Relationship Manager - SQL...

    **Financial Services Tax**

    £35000 - £50000 per annum: Pro-Recruitment Group: Take your chance to join the...

    Day In a Page

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

    Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
    Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

    British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

    The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
    Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

    Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

    Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
    Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
    Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

    Cannes Film Festival

    Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
    The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

    The concept album makes surprise top ten return

    Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
    Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

    Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

    Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
    10 best baking books

    10 best baking books

    Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
    Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

    Jury still out on Pellegrini

    Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

    As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
    Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

    Mad Men returns for a final fling

    The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

    Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit