Complaint enquiries to the Insurance & Financial Services Ombudsman Scheme (IFSO Scheme) have almost doubled in the past year. In its annual report released today, the IFSO Scheme reveals it received 4,120 complaint enquiries in the past year, a 45% increase from 2,847 in 2022. It is the highest number of complaint enquiries the IFSO Scheme has ever received in one year.
Karen Stevens, Insurance & Financial Services Ombudsman, says that this is not surprising, given the year of extraordinary weather events.
“All the indications at the start of the year were that we would have fewer complaints than in the last few years. However, that all changed when the flooding swamped Auckland and the far North in January, and Cyclone Gabrielle struck the North Island in February. Almost overnight, complaint enquiries increased by 45% and complaints by 15%,” she says.
The IFSO Scheme resolves complaints about insurance and financial services. 59% of complaints in the past year were about general insurance, including house, vehicle, travel and contents insurance. 27% were related to health, life and disability insurance, 8% were related to loans or credit contracts, and 3% were about financial advisers.
The top issues for people were delays and customer service issues.
“Consumers most frequently reached out to us due to delays and problems with customer service - not only about the weather event claims, but also business as usual insurance claims. Added to that, we have been contacted by many customers of Latitude Financial Services, following a debilitating cyber-attack on their business,” says Stevens.
Stevens says that insurance and financial services have a way of touching all life situations, from the more mundane parts of our lives, to birth, death, debt and disasters.
“Our annual report this year includes complaints relating to landslips and flooded cars, dodgy house repairs, missing mail, obstetrics care, uncertain overtime hours and windows left open. These complaints all contain lessons for both consumers and industry,” she says.
“Insurers need to clearly communicate to their customers if there are any onerous or unusual terms in their policies. They should also be using modern practices such as emailing and phoning customers rather than relying purely on mail for important communications such as policy cancellations,” Stevens says.
“Lenders still need to get better at making reasonable inquiries to check affordability before giving loans, but this is improving following the update to the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act 2003 (CCCFA),” she says.
Consumers also have lessons to learn, says Stevens, and many complaints could have been avoided if people had taken time to read and check what they were signing.
“When it comes to insurance, consumers really need to understand what their policy covers and any exclusions, and not just make assumptions. People should be checking the details in their renewal documents every year too,” Stevens said.
“When it comes to loan or financial service agreements, it’s a good idea to check if there are any fees and charges outlined in the contract, and ask if you’re not sure,” she says.
The IFSO Scheme provides an independent, fair and free service for consumers. Call 0800 888 202, or visit www.ifso.nz
See the IFSO Scheme 2023 Annual Report.
IFSO Scheme Communications Manager
021 292 4036