Complaints to Insurance Ombudsman increase

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COMPLAINTS handled by the Insurance Ombudsman, Dr Julian Farrand, increased by 29 per cent in 1992 to 5,576.

Dr Farrand ruled in the complainant's favour in just under a third of cases.

Of the 4,476 completed cases in 1992, the insurance company's view was upheld in 2,897 instances and revised in 1,418. The remaining complaints were either settled or withdrawn.

A quarter of the cases completed in 1992 related to life insurance, and in these cases 42 per cent of decisions went against the insurers compared with 26.5 per cent of cases involving general insurance.

The Ombudsman said in his annual report that many 'fact-finds' about prospective policyholders' circumstances were not fully completed. 'It suggests that, in the push to produce a sale, important requirements and needs may be overlooked and an unsuitable product selected by the salesman.'

He also suggested that sales people should complete a standard questionnaire for clients. This 'reverse fact-find' should include questions such as: 'Is the company solvent?'; 'How much commission do you get?' and 'How soon will the surrender value equal premiums paid?'

The Ombudsman made awards totalling pounds 4.5m - a drop from last year's pounds 5m. The largest payment, for pounds 120,000, involved antique fireplaces stolen from an unoccupied house. The smallest payment was pounds 7.76, involving a miscalculation of short-term motor insurance rates.

In cases involving life insurance, the largest payment was for pounds 88,000 in a case where an endowment policy was lapsed by an insurer that was also the mortgage lender. The lowest payment, for pounds 12.60, involved interest on late payment on a policy's maturity.

The Ombudsman dealt with 220 cases involving home income plans. A total of pounds 1m was paid out.