Types of complaint we see
We often hear from customers who are unhappy with how their insurer dealt with repairing their vehicle after an accident. This can include cars, motorbike, vans etc.
Some of the complaints we see are about:
- delays to repairs
- the quality of the work carried out
- further damage caused during repair
- lack of a courtesy vehicle
- the decision to repair instead of writing-off the vehicle
Handling a complaint like this
If you don't reply within the time limits, 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.
Find out more about how to resolve a complaint.
What we look at
We’ll listen to what both you and the customer have to say.
In most cases, we can make a decision with the evidence that either you or the customer have given us such as photos, claim notes and engineers' reports.
If something's unclear, we might ask you or the customer for extra evidence, such as an independent expert view.
Some customers and insurers are unclear about who's responsible for what’s gone wrong. If the repairs have been carried out by one of your approved repairers or a repairer you’ve told the customer to use, then you are usually responsible.
If your customer used their own garage, we’ll look at whether you made it clear that you wouldn’t be responsible if anything went wrong. If you didn’t, we might think it’s fair and reasonable to hold you responsible. We also might hold you responsible if you did anything to take over control of the repair.
You can read more detail about how we approach different types of complaint:
We hear from customers who are unhappy with how long it has taken for their insurer to repair their vehicle.
We'll consider what repair time is reasonable in the individual circumstances of each case. This will include whether you or the repairer were responsible for any delay.
Sometimes, customers don’t realise that what may seem like a straightforward repair can take much longer than expected. You may have a good reason for the delay so we’ll check with you to find out what’s happened. For example, a mechanic might have had to order parts, meaning it took them longer to carry out the repair. In this case, we’d look to see what actions you took to do things within a reasonable time.
If the repair time is reasonable
We’ll also take into account how you communicated the expected length of repair time to the customer. How you manage a customer’s expectations is important.
If we think there was an unreasonable delay
We'll check whether you did anything to reduce inconvenience for the customer. For example, did you offer them a courtesy car? We might also tell you to compensate the customer for not having the use of their car for a period of time.
Some customers tell us that repair work:
- isn’t of a satisfactory quality
- didn’t fix everything that was damaged in the accident
- caused additional damage to the car
When this happens, we’re likely to ask for evidence about the repairs as well as the condition of the vehicle before and after it was damaged.
If something’s unclear we might suggest that you get an expert’s report, or pay for the customer to get one. While we consider all information provided, we often find independent expert reports most persuasive.
If we don’t think the repairs left the vehicle in the condition it was in before it was damaged, we might tell you to do one of the following:
- arrange for further repairs through your own repairer
- pay for the customer to choose their own repairer to do the work
- write-off the vehicle and pay the customer its pre-accident market value
Customers sometimes say that damaged parts of their car haven’t been replaced with something matching or identical.
Most policies only state that only the parts that were damaged will be replaced. However, some customers feel that their insurer should replace a whole set – for example, a set of alloy wheels – so that they all match. Or they might feel the insurer’s replacement isn’t a close enough match.
We don’t feel it’s fair to leave a customer with parts that look significantly different. We’ll check what you did to find matching parts, or if this wasn’t possible, a reasonably close match.
If you can’t find a suitable replacement, we might tell you to pay for the damaged part, and 50% of the cost of replacing the rest of the set.
Some customers say they’ve had to hire another vehicle during a repair but their insurer won’t cover the costs.
If there’s been a delay that you’re responsible for, we may tell you to cover the costs of a replacement vehicle, as long as we think:
- the customer has acted reasonably in hiring a vehicle
- the price they paid is in line with standard commercial rates for a like for like vehicle
If we think the customer spent an unreasonable amount hiring a vehicle, then we’d probably ask you to pay what we thought was a fair and reasonable amount.
If a customer was entitled to a courtesy vehicle but didn’t get one
If they had to pay out other costs to get around, we might tell you to pay compensation for the ‘loss of use’ of their vehicle. However we’ll need to consider the specific circumstances of each complaint. For example, we’ll look at whether they had access to another vehicle or whether there’s anything else they could have done to reduce their costs.
If the courtesy vehicle is a different make or model to the customer’s own
Most policies don’t say that a courtesy car will be the same make and model (or equivalent) to the customer’s car. We’d usually expect you to provide the type of car specified in the policy, unless the customer:
- had specific needs – for example, a type of disability that means they need a vehicle with modifications
- wasn’t given the type of vehicle promised by any enhanced courtesy vehicle cover they’d bought
We hear from people who are unhappy with your decision to repair their vehicle, rather than writing it off. We also hear from people who think you should have written the vehicle off rather than repairing it.
It’s industry practice for insurers to write off a vehicle if the repairs cost more than 60%-70% of the vehicle’s pre-accident value. But we need to consider the individual circumstances of each complaint. For example, if repairs cost more than 60%-70% of the pre-accident market value and you decided to repair the car, we wouldn’t automatically say it was unfair.
We’ll need to know more about the vehicle and the repairs to decide whether your decision is reasonable. We’ll consider the value of the car before it was damaged – and how much the engineers estimated the repairs would cost.
Some customers refuse to allow their car to be repaired. If we think your decision to repair it is fair, we might suggest that you give the customer cash to get the repairs done themselves. This is sometimes called a ‘cash in lieu’ payment.
But we’d usually say it was fair to you to only pay the amount quoted by your repairers. This is so you don’t incur higher costs than if you repaired the vehicle. You can read more about this in vehicle write-offs and valuations.
When a vehicle is written-off, but the customer says they want it repaired instead, we’re unlikely to uphold the complaint if you can show it’s not economical to repair it.
You may feel it’s unfair to pay for repairs that put the vehicle in a better condition than before. We see complaints where insurers want to use second-hand parts or offer a cash settlement based on the cost of using second-hand parts for the repair.
In these complaints, we’ll consider what the policy says, as well as the part that’s being replaced. We generally don’t think it’s fair to use second-hand parts unless a car is very old or a classic or limited edition.
Sometimes insurers tell us it’s not possible to match the paint on the area that’s been repaired to the rest of the paintwork. Depending on the circumstances, we might say it’s fair for you to re-spray the car or pay a cash equivalent to the repair costs.
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.
For example if we think you’ve caused delays, we may tell you to pay compensation for the distress or inconvenience the customer has suffered. We may also consider a ‘loss of use’ payment, if your mistake caused the customer to be without their car.
Find out more about how we award compensation.
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.
Insurer makes admin mistakes which led to unreasonable delays
Insurer fails to arrange courtesy car during a long delay
Insurer is reasonable in refusing to fix pre-existing damage
Insurer fails to tell customer they’re not covered if they use their own garage
Insurer repairs car rather than writing it off