Questions Of Cash: My insurance broker failed me, and sued me when I refused to pay up

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Q When my car insurance came up for renewal my broker provided a quote I accepted. Unknown to me, the broker had failed to advise the insurer of a recent accident I had been involved in.

Q When my car insurance came up for renewal my broker provided a quote I accepted. Unknown to me, the broker had failed to advise the insurer of a recent accident I had been involved in.

When this became known, the insurer increased the premiums by a large amount. The broker told me I had no alternative but to pay up and took me to court when I refused to pay.

I wrote to the insurer complaining of the practice, but its chief executive told me it had never been paid by the broker. The court dismissed the case and awarded me costs.

But now I have had another financial demand from the broker. This is an absolute scam which your readers should be aware of. DH, Huddersfield.

The British Insurance Brokers' Association says if a contract was entered into by the broker in full knowledge of all the facts, including the recent accident, the broker cannot change the amount. Nor can the insurer, if it had been made aware of the facts.

If a genuine mistake was made, the broker or insurer should bear the cost of the premium increase. BIBA suggests you refer this to the General Insurance Standards Council (020 7648 7800), the fraud unit at the Association of British Insurers (020 7600 3333), and to BIBA (020 7623 9043), if a member of theirs was involved.

Q I asked Scottish Widows why I had not had a statement for some time. It told me its records showed I had moved to Stockport in 2001, which I had not.

Scottish Widows says it was given this information by the financial advisers who sold me the policy, but after I spoke to the advisers, Scottish Widows told them it had confused my details with those of another customer with a similar name and date of birth.

I have been offered £60 "in full and final settlement and without admission of liability". Scottish Widows also says its records have been amended. Should I be satisfied? RW, London.

Scottish Widows admits "systemic and administration errors by our company". It says that, as a result of your experience, it is changing its systems to prevent other customers having similar problems.

You can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service (020 7964 1000). The ombudsman will normally award only modest compensation for cases of "distress and inconvenience" such as yours, but it is unlikely to offer you less than Scottish Widows has.

Scottish Widows and its parent company, Lloyds TSB, generate more than their fair share of letters of complaint. Last week, the Financial Services Authority imposed a record fine of £1.9m on Lloyds.

You may ask the FSA (0845 606 1234) to conduct its own review of Scottish Widows' systems.

Q I have an internet account with Northern Rock. Twice I have been denied online access to my account because of a glitch in their systems, or because of an incompatibility between my system and theirs.

I have written to them telling them to close my account and transfer the balance elsewhere. JO, Huntingdon.

Northern Rock advises us it has resolved this matter to your satisfaction. It says the problem was wrong settings on your computer, not failings of its website.

Q In February, I complained to Halifax alleging mis-selling of an endowment policy. I have now received five letters acknowledging the complaint and apologising for not reaching a decision. How long will I have to wait? ML, Nottingham.

Banks and other providers selling endowments have been flooded with complaints of mis-selling. Halifax says it has no target time for resolving complaints.

It also says it cannot provide an average time. Each case is different and some will be subject to delays in obtaining information from old files, or from the life assurer.

You can lodge your complaint with the Financial Ombudsman when the provider has not resolved your query within two months of it being lodged. The Consumers' Association recommends that complainants do this.

If you have questions, write to Questions of Cash, 'The Independent', 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, or e-mail We can reply only to letters published. Please send copies, not originals.

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