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Majority of insurance complaints to Financial Services Ombudsman not upheld
The Financial Services Ombudsman (FSO) recently published its 2014 annual review. Following the enactment of Section 72 of the Central Bank (Supervision and Enforcement) Act 2013, the 2014 review is the first to set out the number of complaints substantiated and partly substantiated against financial service providers in a calendar year.
There was a reduction in the number of complaints to the FSO across all sectors in 2014. The FSO has attributed this to changes made in 2013 to its policy and powers. The majority of complaints received by the FSO related to the insurance sector. In 2013 there was a 27% increase in the number of FSO oral hearings.
The list of financial service providers named in the 2014 review included 26 insurance providers against which three or more claims were substantiated or partly substantiated in 2014 (compared with eight financial service providers in the investment sector and 13 in the banking sector).
The FSO reported that insurance complaints decreased from 3,835 in 2013 to 1,955 in 2014 – a 49% reduction. Payment protection insurance (PPI) complaints continued to be the main driver for complaints, representing 15% of all complaints to the FSO in 2014. However, PPI complaints dropped significantly from 1,736 in 2013 to 670 in 2014 – a 61% reduction. The next largest numbers of complaints related to:
- life policies – 253 complaints;
- motor policies – 210 complaints;
- travel policies – 203 complaints;
- household policies – 184 complaints; and
- medical expenses – 162 complaints.
The balance of insurance complaints related to:
- critical and serious illness products;
- income protection and permanent health;
- mobile phone insurance;
- mortgage protection insurance;
- personal accident insurance; and
- miscellaneous products.
During 2014 1,153 insurance complaints were closed, of which:
- 80% were not upheld;
- 15% were partly upheld; and
- 5% were upheld.
These statistics are broadly similar to those for 2013.
During 2014, 441 insurance complaints were settled (including through mediation). In the same year, the FSO awarded €954,916 in compensation, including €307,936 directly in respect of insurance complaints.
While insurance complaints represented 44% of all consumer complaints to the FSO in 2014, it is significant that 80% of these were not substantiated. While PPI continued to be a significant source of complaints in 2014, the overall number of PPI complaints decreased by more than 60%. It appears likely that this trend will continue during 2015.
Ger Deering took up his appointment as the next financial services ombudsman on April 20 2015 and will oversee the integration of the offices of the Financial Services Ombudsman and the Pensions Ombudsman when the necessary legislation is enacted.
This article first appeared in the International Law Office Insurance newsletter, 12 May 2015