BBC Watchdog exposes insurers’ aggressive tactics to escape payouts

This article was published on: 06/11/13

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Insurers took another hammering on national television last week, this time from the BBC, over their conduct when it comes to dealing with claims.

BBC Watchdog raised the issue on Thursdays show, of what they referred to as the ‘aggressive tactics’ that are being used by insurance firms to avoid paying out on risk based claims.

The program went on to underline further just how desperate insurance companies are when it comes to not paying out on claims, a fact that everyone but the government could see when it came to negotiating the conditions of the personal injury reforms, which were brought in on the 1st April 2013.

In one instance, the story of a wife of a cancer sufferer was told, as viewers heard how she was forced to start a petition to raise 64,000 signatures just to take her case to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS). This was to allow her to be able to claim on a friends life critical illness policy.  Thankfully the FOS ruled in her favour but the lack of regard for the stress they must have caused this lady typically sums up the insurance industry’s real feelings towards the good of the consumer and genuine claimant.

As part of the investigation, Malcolm Tarling, spokesman for the Association of British Insurers (ABI), defended the industry telling presenter Ann Robinson: “Insurers are acutely aware that when people come to claim, especially health related, they are doing so at a difficult time and insurers are 100% committed to dealing with all genuine claims as quickly as possible. No insurance company will ever bully a customer. On critical illness claims, insurers are paying out over £2 million a week. The reality is insurers do everything they possibly can, at a stressful time, to make sure they get the money they are entitled to.”

But this is far from the stance the insurers have displayed when it comes to personal injury claims, as they continuously lobby for the effective removal of legal aid, and therefore the obstruction of access to justice for the genuine claimant, meaning thousands could go without the compensation they need and deserve for their injuries.

Also in the program the viewers were told the story of a claimant who said that he had faced an interrogation rather than a claims process, which included his insurer checking his twitter feed nine months after the claim. This is a favourite tactic for insurance companies, as we have warned of in the past, when it comes to tailoring insurance premiums.

The Director of Communications and customer insight of the FOS, David Cresswell also appeared on the program. He told Watchdog: “We are seeing insurance companies not following well established guidelines we would expect them to follow.”

He followed this up by explaining that the FOS had seen decisions on claims that are unfair.

Although this relates to another area in which insurers deal with claims, surely it is enough for the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to take note of when considering how to move forward with the personal injury reforms. Insurers have often talked about fraudulent claims and driving down premiums for the consumer,  and they championed the hard hitting reforms which the government have proceeded to bring in based on the fact that premiums will be reduced if the amount of claims they have to payout on are.

But how can this be taken seriously if, when the consumer really needs their insurer to payout on their policies, they refuse to do so and further stress is added to the genuine claimant throughout the whole process. This is just yet further proof of what the entire personal injury sector has been saying for the past year. The insurance companies are only interested in  their own personal profits, regardless of whether the genuine claimant or consumer is forced to pay the price or not.

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