A serious illness prevents a consumer from complaining on time

Time limits Motor Insurance Exceptional circumstances

Doreen contacted us after her insurer had declined a claim on her motor insurance policy. She referred her complaint to our service after six-month the time limit due to an illness.

What happened

Doreen was unhappy her insurer had declined a claim she made on her motor insurance policy.

Doreen complained to her insurer, but they didn’t uphold her complaint. The ‘final response’ letter explained that she could bring her complaint to the Financial Ombudsman within six months from the date of the final response.

Unhappy with the outcome, Doreen referred her complaint to the Financial Ombudsman after the time limit passed.

What we said 

We asked Doreen why she delayed referring her complaint to us. She told us that after making her complaint she’d been abroad caring for a sick relative and couldn’t access her post during that time.

She returned to the UK shortly before the end of the six-month period ended and saw the business's final response for the first time. She intended to contact us at that point, but was then unwell herself and needed hospital treatment. She said she contacted us as soon as she’d recovered.

The rules allow our service to look at complaints that have been referred out of time if the reason for that delay is due to exceptional circumstances. 

We agreed these were exceptional circumstances for the delay. Doreen clearly hadn’t seen the business’ final response until shortly before the time limit ran out and was then unable to refer her complaint to our service in time because of her own health problems.

We felt that Doreen had contacted us as soon as she reasonably could after finishing her hospital treatment – and, importantly, that she would’ve contacted us in time if these exceptional circumstances hadn’t happened.