Insurers' service shows signs of improvement

Ombudsman's report
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The Independent Online
Insurance companies are slowly beginning to improve the service they provide to their customers, triggering far fewer complaints against them in the process, the Insurance Ombudsman said yesterday.

Laurie Slade, the Ombudsman, said his bureau had received 3,186 complaints about general insurance in 1995, a 21 per cent drop on the previous year. He said: "The decrease ... may be partly due to a drop in the number of claims against insurers. I think it is also because insurers are learning the lessons of experience from the bureau.

"Our approach still seems radical to some insurers, but others accept that it makes sense and follow the bureau's lead when dealing with consumer complaints. We have a comprehensive agenda aimed at promoting this trend."

Mr Slade's comments came as the IOB published its annual report. Despite the fall in general insurance complaints, the amount of money awarded to those whom he found in favour of reached a record pounds 10m, up from pounds 9.5m in 1994.

An IOB spokesman said: "We are also worried that there may be a preponderance of claims coming from what may loosely be called the 'chattering classes' in the South of England. We are considering carrying out research to see whether we need to encourage greater numbers of inquiries from places like Scotland and Northern Ireland."

The highest award of pounds 177,000 was in a case involving a claim for permanent total disability benefit under a person's mortgage protection plan. The insurer had refused to pay out for an injury suffered by the policyholder, which left him permanently disabled while on holiday.

Of the 6,539 cases dealt with by the IOB, the Ombudsman found either partly or wholly in favour of policyholders in 35 per cent of cases.

Ombudsman's report

IOB annual results:

8 The Bureau received 6,438 complaints in 1995, down 24 per cent. The fall reached 28 per cent for financial services cases and 21 per cent for general insurance.

8 The Ombudsman found in favour of 35 per cent of complainants, 31 of general insurance cases and 40 per cent of financial services cases.

8 Compensation payments reached a record pounds 10m in 1995, up from pounds 9.5m the previous year.

8 The highest award was for pounds 177,000 in a claim involving permanent disability benefit under a mortgage protection plan. The injury was suffered on holiday.

8 The lowest claim was pounds 1.41 for a damaged door. The award covered the repair cost, less the premium for accidental damage cover, which had not been paid.