Money Grouse: A case of small print and a pair of glasses

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The Independent Online
ELEANOR SUNDERLAND was told she could not claim on a travel insurance policy to replace a pair of damaged spectacles because she did not have the original receipt.

She says:

Mrs sunderland made the claim on behalf of her husband, whose glasses were damaged when they fell by a swimming pool. The lenses were scratched and the frames twisted.

An optician said the glasses were beyond repair and needed to be replaced at a cost of roughly pounds 250. The Sunderlands supplied an optician's report confirming this.

The insurance policy was marketed under the name Artac Safe and Sure. Artac is a trade association representing independent travel agents.

Member agents market insurance policies selected and branded by Artac. The underwriter for the Sunderlands' policy was IGI Insurance and claims are processed by the loss adjuster Claims International.

Claims International pointed to a clause in the travel policy that states: 'This insurance does not cover claims which are not substantiated by original receipts or valuations for any item in excess of pounds 50.'

We asked IGI, the underwriter that wrote the policy contract, for a second opinion on Claims International's decision.

The response was not encouraging. Lynne Buckingham, claims manager at IGI, said the insurer might have been willing to accept an estimate from an optician about what the broken glasses would have been worth when new, but the claim would have been ruled out under another exclusion - that the policy did not cover normal wear and tear or damage from scratching.

The Sunderlands have fallen foul of their policy's fine print. Insurance companies have wide discretion over what they put in their contracts, which are excluded from the Unfair Contract Terms Act. The Insurance Ombudsman can consider complaints about contracts, but IGI is not a member of the scheme.

It is a member of the Association of British Insurers, which has a limited consumer complaints scheme. Aggrieved policyholders can write to the ABI, which will ensure that the problem is investigated by senior management at the company.

IGI no longer underwrites travel insurance. Policies recommended by Artac this year have more flexible clauses on receipts and valuations, says Artac's chairman, Colin Heal.

Write to Money Grouse, The Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB. Include a daytime telephone number. Do not enclose SAEs or original documents.

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