We checked the evidence on both sides to find out whether a delay was the fault of the business.

What happened

In early November, a couple of days before Tanya’s 's 10-year endowment policy was due to mature, she wrote to the firm to say that she’d moved to Saudi Arabia.

She’d assumed that the business would pay the proceeds of her policy straight into her UK bank account. Just after the policy's maturity date, she contacted her bank and found that the money hadn’t been paid in. She then wrote to them to ask what had happened.

The business said it hadn’t yet released the money. It was waiting for Tanya to sign and return the discharge documents it had sent her some weeks earlier, which she’d said she’d never received. To speed things up, the business said it would send her a declaration form to sign instead. It told her it would pay the money into her account as soon as it received the signed copy.

The firm faxed the form to Tanya in Saudi Arabia on 7 December. Tanya signed it and posted it back, but it didn’t reach the firm until 23 December. The firm paid the proceeds into Tanya’s's account on 3 January.

Tanya then sent a letter of complaint to the firm, blaming it for the delay of over a month before she could access to the money. She said the firm's actions had prevented her from reinvesting the money at the end of November, as she’d planned to do.

How we helped

We looked at all the facts. We didn’t think the firm was responsible for the delay. In keeping with its normal practice, it had written to Tanya explaining what she had to do before it could release the proceeds six weeks before the policy was due to mature. It also enclosed documents for her to sign and return to authorise payment.

The firm had sent this letter to Tanya's UK address, since at the time it was unaware that she had moved. It wasn’t their fault that the letter never reached her. Tanya had asked her son, who was still living at her UK address, not to forward any mail to her as there had been a number of anthrax scares, especially with mail going to or from the Middle East.

Putting things right

When the business became aware that Tanya hadn’t seen the letter and the discharge documents, it agreed to release the proceeds as soon as she signed and returned the declaration form that it had faxed to her. Since they didn’t receive the form back until 23 December, some delay was then inevitable because of office and bank closures over the Christmas period. We considered that the firm had processed the release of the money as quickly as it could.