As a business, you might receive a complaint from a customer because they’re unhappy about how their claim has been dealt with, or that it’s been unfairly rejected. When we deal with these complaints, we’ll consider all the facts and decide whether you need to do anything to resolve the complaint. For example, we might ask you to reconsider the claim, or to accept the claim.
Types of complaint we see
With complaints involving caravan or motorhome insurance, we often hear from customers who say:
- their claim wasn’t dealt with correctly
- their claim was wrongly rejected
- the claim settlement offered isn’t fair
- they aren’t happy with the standard of repairs made to their caravan
- they weren’t told about security requirements when they took out the policy
Handling a complaint like this
If you don’t reply within the time limits for responding to a complaint, or the customer disagrees with your response, they can bring their complaint to us. We’ll check it’s something we can deal with, and if it is, we’ll investigate.
We’ll expect you to be able to show us that you’ve investigated the complaint thoroughly, and have reflected carefully on the circumstances.
Read more about resolving complaints
What we look at
Depending on the complaint, we might ask for evidence from both you and the customer. This may include police reports, registration documentation or visual evidence, such as photographs.
We’ll also look at the policy sale how the firm that sold the policy and (if separate) how the insurer made sure made sure the customer was aware of any significant or unusual exclusions.
Complaints where the claim was wrongly rejected
If a customer complains that they made a claim that was wrongly rejected, we’ll look at why you rejected the claim. We’ll consider evidence including whether:
- they owned or had ‘insurable interest’ in the caravan or motorhome and its contents
- there was loss or damage to the caravan or motorhome, and whether this was caused by an insured event
- any security conditions have been breached – and whether you or the firm that sold the policy clearly highlighted these conditions to the customer when the policy was sold
- there were any significant or unusual terms and conditions in the policy, and how you or the firm that sold the policy communicated these to the customer
We sometimes see cases where an insurer disputes whether their customer actually owned the caravan or motorhome and/or its contents. In these cases, we’ll ask the customer for any of the following as proof that they were the owner:
- invoices, receipts or a finance agreement in relation to the caravan or motorhome
- registration documents
- evidence of the contents – such as receipts, instruction manuals, packaging or photographs of the items
You may dispute whether your customer had an ‘insurable interest’ in either the caravan or motorhome or its contents, meaning the customer:
- was renting the caravan or motorhome
- had borrowed the caravan or motorhome from a friend on the condition that they would be responsible for any damage
We’ll ask the customer to prove that they own or have an ‘insurable interest’ in the caravan or motorhome or its contents – for example, we’ll ask them to provide a rental agreement. If they can prove this, we’ll expect you to show why you think you don’t have to settle the claim. For example, a specific condition that has been breached.
If there’s a dispute about a breach of conditions, we look at:
- how clear that condition is in the policy document and whether it was pointed out to the customer and – if it wasn’t whether this prejudiced their position
- whether the breach of the condition was connected to the loss being claimed for
- whether you had waived your right to rely on the condition
Motorhomes can be registered with the DVLA using the V5 registration document, so most owners should have some sort of proof of registration.
A touring caravan may be part of the HPI Caravan Registration and Identification Scheme (CRiS) . This is a register of caravans manufactured by members of the National Caravan Council (NCC).
If the caravan or motorhome was manufactured after 1992, NCC members are recorded on the CRiS database with a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). The VIN and a description of the caravan or motorhome are recorded on a Touring Caravan Registration Document and sent to the registered owner.
If the caravan or motorhome was manufactured before 1992, or was imported into the UK, the owner may have manually registered it with the CRiS.
If it’s a conversion, for example a transit van that’s been turned into a motorhome, the owner is legally required to update the V5c to show that it’s now a ‘motor caravan’. This can be important where there’s a dispute about the valuation or what exactly the vehicle is.
If the complaint is related to loss or damage caused to the caravan or motorhome or its contents, we’ll look at the following evidence:
- police reports
- evidence from the campsite owner or caravan park manager
- visual evidence, such as photographs
- reports from a loss adjuster
We’ll also ask the customer to provide any other information or evidence that we think could be important.
Was the loss or damage caused by an insured event?
In disputes about whether damage was caused by an insured event, such as a storm, we look at whose responsibility it is to prove whether there was an insured event.
If we find that there’s conflicting evidence, we’ll do our own investigation into the evidence. For example, if the damage is said to be caused by a storm, we’ll check the weather reports for that specific date.
Caravans and motorhomes have internal water and sanitary systems, which can leak and cause damage. Disputes can then arise over the cause of the leak, the timescales involved and the extent of repairs. There may also be policy conditions relating to these systems. For example, a customer may be required to drain them over the winter to avoid them freezing.
A lot of caravan insurance policies say that theft cover won’t apply unless certain security measures are taken. These vary between policies, but normally require the caravan to be:
- fitted with a certain type of alarm
- fitted with a certain type of lock – such as a hitch lock
- fitted with a certain type of wheel-clamp
- kept at a storage site that meets certain specific requirements when not in use
We consider all security requirements to be significant terms . We’ll check that you clearly communicated these to the customer at the point of sale. If the policy was sold through a broker or independent intermediary, we’ll look at whether they made sure the customer was fully aware of the requirements.
Security conditions are important, and we’d expect them to be highlighted in the IPID, or on the policy schedule. It’s not enough for them conditions to just be included in the policy document.
We find that most people will comply with security requirements if they know about them. So, if you didn’t clearly highlight or explain these to the customer, we’re likely to say it’s unfair for you to reject a claim based on this.
You may have rejected the claim because you say the customer gave you incorrect information when the policy was taken out, meaning that the security requirements were never met. For example, they said they had the caravan or motorhome was fitted with a certain type of alarm, when it actually wasn’t. In this case, we’d ask you to show us that cover was only valid only on the basis that this specific alarm was fitted.
If it was a broker or independent intermediary that failed to point out the security requirements to the customer we may think it more appropriate for the complaint to be set up against them.
Most policies normally include conditions relating to the storage of caravans and motorhomes. Specialist storage sites are often away from residential areas or main roads, so any thefts are likely to be deliberate rather than opportunistic. We understand that because of this, insurers apply strict conditions for site security as well as for the van itself. The site may need to:
- be properly fenced and securely locked
- be alarmed
- have CCTV
- have security lighting
- have some type of security patrol and/or a resident caretaker
- be an ‘approved site’
Claims should only be rejected if a breach of conditions is actually connected to the theft. If the theft would have happened anyway – regardless of whether the security requirements had been met – we’d normally uphold the complaint if the claim had been rejected for a breach of the security requirements.
The definition of an ‘approved site’, will vary between policies. In some cases, it means the site must be approved by the Caravan Storage Site Owners' Association (CaSSOA). But other policies will need the site to have a particular standard of approval from the CaSSOA, such as being gold registered.
If there’s a particularly significant or unusual term in the policy, it’s important that this was communicated properly to the customer at the outset. Terms and conditions can significantly reduce the cover provided, so it’s important that the customer is made aware of these as it may affect their decision to take out the policy.
We’re likely to uphold a complaint about a rejected claim if your customer:
- wasn’t made aware of the term or exclusion
- might have acted differently if they’d known about the term or exclusion, and be in a better position as a result
If a significant term was only mentioned in the policy we’re unlikely to agree this was sufficient enough to make the customer aware.
If it was a broker or independent intermediary that failed to point out the significant or unusual terms to the customer we may think it more appropriate for the complaint to be set up against them.
Complaints about the settlement offered
Most policies say that in the event of a valid claim, you’re required to put the customer in the position that they were in before the loss or damage. You can do this by:
- arranging the repairs needed
- replacing the necessary items
- offering a cash settlement
If it’s a ‘new for old’ policy, then the customer will get a new caravan or item for the lost or damaged one if it’s been written off.
If you offered a cash settlement instead of repairs, we’ll check that this was written in the policy terms. If it was, we’ll ask both sides for estimates for the cost of repairs to make sure the amount offered was fair.
If a caravan or motorhome is treated as a write-off, we’ll use relevant trade guides to assess its market value. Not all trade guides offer valuations for caravans, so this can be more difficult to work out than for other motor vehicles. For example, Glass’ do offer some valuations for caravans and motorhomes, but CAP and Parkers don’t.
We wouldn’t normally consider using only one guide to be enough to support a valuation. So we’d expect you to provide additional information or evidence to show how you reached that valuation. If we can’t use the trade guides to work out the valuation, we may consider using adverts given by the customer to work out the value.
Read more on our approach to vehicle valuation.
Complaints about repairs
We often see complaints about the standard of the repairs carried out, or how long they took. Caravan and motorhome repairs may be more specialised, so they can take longer than other vehicles. These more specialised repairs can range from mains electricity connections and plumbing, through to greater use of fibreglass and fabrics for awnings.
If you arranged to repair the damage, we’d expect you to make sure that they were carried out to an acceptable standard and done a reasonable amount of time.
We’ll also look at photographic and expert evidence, as well as the customer’s statements, and decide whether we think the repairs were satisfactory.
Read more about vehicle repairs.
Putting things right
If we think you have made a mistake or treated a consumer unfairly, we'll ask you to put things right. Our general approach is that the customer should be put back in the position they would have been in if the problem hadn't happened. The exact details of how we’ll ask you to put things right will depend on the nature of the complaint, and how the customer lost out.
For example, if we find that you wrongly rejected a claim, we’ll tell you to accept the claim. Depending on the claim, this might also involve carrying out repairs or providing a replacement vehicle. We’ll usually decide that interest of 8% per year should be added on top if the customer has been without funds.
If we decide that the cash settlement you offered wasn’t enough, we’ll tell you to pay the appropriate amount and add interest as appropriate. Or if we think that repairs weren’t carried out to a reasonable standard, we’ll usually tell you to improve these.
If we find that the policy was mis-sold because you didn’t make the customer aware of a significant exclusion or limitation, we’ll usually tell you to reassess the claim as if the exclusion or limitation doesn’t apply or put the consumer back in the position they’d have been in if they were aware of the exclusion.
In some cases, we may also tell you to compensate the customer for distress and inconvenience they experienced as a result of the problem.
Read more on our approach to compensation.
Caravan is stolen from a storage site, but insurer says security conditions have been breached
Mis-matched repairs after caravan damage
Business Support Hub
If you want to talk informally about a complaint you've received, you can speak to our Business Support Hub. They can give general information on how the Financial Ombudsman might look at a particular complaint. We also offer guidance on our rules and how we work.
Find out how to contact the Business Support Hub.