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ombudsman news

issue 10

October 2001

about this issue of ombudsman news

This is the last insurance issue of ombudsman news before N2 (1 December 2001) - the date when the majority of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 comes into force. From that date we will follow the new rules of the Financial Ombudsman Service when we deal with cases referred to us.

These new rules form the "Complaints Sourcebook" which, together with the "Compensation Sourcebook", makes up Block 4 - "Redress" of the Financial Services Authority's Handbook of Rules and Guidance.

Perhaps the most significant change for general insurance is the inclusion for the first time within our jurisdiction of complaints from small businesses. A "small business" means a business with a group annual turnover of less than £1 million at the time it makes the complaint to us. Similar criteria are applied to charities and trustees. In addition to bringing some new policy types into our remit (such as business interruption), the extension of our jurisdiction means we now cover many areas of complaint that we were previously unable to deal with, such as insurance cover for property arranged by a residents' association.

The general approach to resolving disputes under the new Financial Ombudsman Service jurisdiction will remain much as before, with the emphasis on what, in our opinion, is fair and reasonable in all the circumstances of the case. So, comments we have made on case issues in previous editions of ombudsman news will normally still apply after N2, as will all the topics covered here.

In this edition we consider a variety of household disasters - including floods, dry rot, and damage to items that are part of a suite or matching set. We also:

  • discuss the implications of insurers opting to repair or replace goods;
  • look at the circumstances where both an intermediary and an insurer are involved in a dispute; and
  • give a brief round-up of some of the other cases we have handled in the last three months.

Finally, we would welcome your comments on our latest consultation paper dealing with the complaints from UK customers about banks and insurers based outside the UK.

ombudsman consultation paper:

complaints from UK consumers about insurers and banks based outside the UK

Please respond by 15 December 2001

We invite your comments on our current consultation paper - dealing with complaints from UK customers about banks and insurers based outside the UK.

As our new rules currently stand, complaints relating to firms based outside the UK are not covered by the ombudsman. Those firms include a number of general insurance subsidiaries of major UK firms, which sell travel and loan protection policies into the UK from their bases in Ireland. We believe it would benefit firms such as these - and their customers - if we allowed them to join our "voluntary jurisdiction", subject to some conditions.

We have therefore proposed changes to the rules. These changes would affect certain banks and general insurance companies based outside the UK but within the European Economic Area. Click here to view the consultation paper.

Walter Merricks, chief ombudsman

ombudsman news gives general information on the position at the date of publication. It is not a definitive statement of the law, our approach or our procedure.

The illustrative case studies are based broadly on real-life cases, but are not precedents. Individual cases are decided on their own facts.