Even ombudsman make mistakes

MISTAKES happen to the best of us, even those appointed to correct the errors of others. A leaflet explaining the Insurance Ombudsman's job proves just that point.

'How The Insurance Ombudsman Can Help You' is available free from the Insurance Ombudsman Bureau, Citizens Advice Bureaux and the insurance companies which participate in the scheme, and it was printed in October 1991.

It explains clearly the Insurance Ombudsman's powers of investigation and adjudication in disputes between an insurance company and its customers. There is also a section which sets out what the Insurance Ombudsman cannot do.

'As a rule the Ombudsman cannot investigate your complaint if the policy or contract is in the name of a company, a partnership, or a club rather than a natural person,' it states.

But that is not the case. The Insurance Ombudsman cannot investigate if the policy is for the benefit of a company. But he can look into a complaint if the policy is for the benefit of the employees, even though it is in the company's name.

Medical fees insurance is often provided by a company. The policy is in the company's name but it is the employee who gets the benefit. WPA, Norwich Union and Orion are among the large medical fees insurers which belong to the Insurance Ombudsman scheme.

Julian Stainton, managing director of WPA, is concerned: 'The IOB could have disenfranchised an enormous number of people. I am jolly glad they are not drafting the Maastricht Treaty,' he said.

However, the wording will be corrected when the leaflets are reprinted some time this year.