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ombudsman news

issue 39

August 2004

about this issue

This month, we look at how banking firms deal with customers who find themselves in financial difficulties. However these difficulties have come about, customers find the situation very worrying - especially if their lender fails to follow the principles of the banking code, which stress the need to treat these customers sympathetically and positively. We outline the types of complaints that are most commonly brought to us by customers in financial difficulties, and focus on the guidelines firms should follow when dealing with these customers.

We also highlight the kinds of complaints that are referred to us about "whole-of-life" plans. These are life assurance policies, designed to provide cover for the entire lifetime of the policyholder and - when the policyholder dies - to pay out a lump sum to their dependants. Increasingly, we are seeing cases where policyholders tell us the firm failed to explain that their plan was subject to "reviews" that might result in the policyholder having to make substantially increased contributions, or accept reduced benefits.

In this issue we look, too, at some of the complaints we have dealt with involving commercial insurance (insurance for companies or for an individual's business or trade).

We focus on the circumstances where we think it fair and reasonable to apply the principles of the Association of British Insurers' "Statement of General Insurance Practice" to these complaints, even though - strictly speaking - the statement only covers complaints about policies taken out in a personal capacity by private individuals.

Walter Merricks, chief ombudsman

ombudsman news issue 39 [PDF format]

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.