8 Sep 2021

Rise in complaints about insurance and financial services, but most not upheld - Ombudsman

5:20 pm on 8 September 2021

Consumer complaints about insurance and financial services have increased in the past year, most being unsuccessful because consumers didn't read the fine print.

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The Insurance and Financial Services Ombudsman, Karen Stevens, said complaints for the June year rose 18 percent to 334, more than half concerning fire and general insurance.

She put the increase down to consumer awareness about regulators pressing the industry to improve standards and the industry's own code of behaviour.

However, complainants' knowledge levels were low.

"Complaints often reflect a misunderstanding of insurance terms, especially sum insured, gradual damage and excess," Stevens said.

"An understanding of these terms can impact your greatest assets - your home, contents or car. You could save future stress by always asking what the term means if you're not sure."

About three-quarters of the complaints (257) were not upheld, but 65 were settled, or partly/fully upheld, resulting in consumers getting paid out $750,000.

Complaints lodged ranged from COVID-19 affected travel, methamphetamine contamination, funeral cover, irresponsible lending, and COVID-19 and redundancy.

"All these cases contain important lessons for consumers to learn what to look out for and trouble spots to avoid," Stevens said.

She said conditions within the industry had been changing quickly driven by Covid, climate change and natural disasters, and changes to regulations, but most companies had been quick to resolve and settle complaints when contacted by the Office.

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