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Insurance complaints on the rise

22 Sep 2017


Complaints to the Insurance & Financial Services Ombudsman Scheme are the highest they have been in nearly 20 years, but this is not all bad news. 

“Consumers know they have the right to complain. Our service is free and independent, and complaints can lead to positive change,” says Insurance & Financial Services Ombudsman, Karen Stevens. “Lessons from complaints can help the industry and consumers avoid the kinds of problems we see every day.”

The IFSO Scheme Annual Report, released yesterday, reveals 314 complaints were investigated and 3,227 complaint enquiries were received in 2016-2017. 

Of the 314 investigated complaints, house insurance issues made up the highest proportion (27%), followed by vehicle (13%), travel (13%), and health insurance (10%). Complaints about financial advisers (3%) and credit contracts (3%) remain relatively low. 

Vehicle insurance issues were the most common of the 3,227 complaint enquiries to the IFSO Scheme (28%), followed by house insurance (23%), contents insurance (9%), credit contracts (7%) and health insurance (5%).

While no single issue has driven up the number of complaints, the aftermath of recent natural disasters– earthquakes, storms and floods – is likely to keep the IFSO Scheme busy with future enquiries, complaints, and the need for proactive information for affected communities. “Since 2010, we have resolved 198 Canterbury-earthquake complaints and responded to 2,060 complaint enquiries,” says Karen. “We continue to be involved with more complex Canterbury complaints, and we have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with EQC so we will be dealing with the Kaikoura earthquake complaints.”

The need to improve consumer understanding and financial literacy is a consistent theme. “Over the 22 years we have been resolving complaints, we’ve heard from thousands of consumers who simply did not know what they were signing up to,” says Karen. “Many complaints could have been avoided if, for example, people read and understood their insurance policies or their loan or credit contracts.”

“Our advice to consumers is get hold of the documents, read them, and ask questions until they fully understand. Consumers need to know about their rights and responsibilities, so they can make more informed choices,” says Karen. “A big part of our role is to help inform and educate both consumers and the industry, so we have a better financial sector and avoid future issues.”

This is the IFSO Scheme’s 22nd Annual Report, and the final report for IFSO Scheme Commission Chair Dame Paula Rebstock, who has overseen significant change and expansion in her eight-year term. “Dame Paula will be greatly missed for her outstanding contribution,” says Karen.


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