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.
The love affair between the great British public and cars provides the backdrop to a substantial proportion of our caseload – and in this issue of Ombudsman news we present a fairly typical selection of complaints we have dealt with recently involving motor cars.
The consumer’s amorous relationship is with the vehicle, not with the finance firm or insurer that makes its use possible or safe. When hopes are dashed and hearts are broken, acrimony develops and complaints follow. We should not, therefore, be surprised about the emotion that accompanies them.
Complaints about the settling of car insurance claims have always featured in the ombudsman’s casebook. Disputed valuations of written-off vehicles, together with concerns over the quality of repairs carried out by or on behalf of insurers, form a steady and rising workload.
The trend has been for insurers to take charge of repairs rather than leaving consumers to arrange the repairs themselves and then claim for the cost. But does that account for some of the increase in our complaints in this area – from 2,500 in 2005 to over 6,200 last year?
Our jurisdiction over consumer credit has brought additional complaints about car finance businesses or the extent to which that they should be responsible for the quality of vehicles for which finance is provided. And many of the complaints we receive about payment protection insurance relate to cover for loans taken out in order to buy a car.
Our remit only covers the financial aspect of people’s relationship with cars. But complaints about second-hand car sales, and car servicing and repair, are among the top five categories of complaints to Consumer Direct. Consumer bodies point out that there’s no ombudsman for most of these disputes. Will there perhaps be a Motor Ombudsman one day?