Irish Life tops Ombudsman complaints list

Irish Life tops Ombudsman complaints list

Pensions firm Irish Life topped the list of complaints made to the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman last year, while the main banks were also the target of grievances from customers.

Of the 5,588 complaints made against firms overall, 19 complaints were made against Irish Life Assurance, with six fully upheld, three substantially upheld and 10 partially upheld, the Ombudsman’s annual report said.

Second on the list was Irish Life Health which had seven complaints made against it, with two fully upheld, one substantially upheld and four partially upheld.

Permanent TSB had six complaints upheld against it, including one fully and three substantially.

AIB had five upheld, including one fully and one substantially, the Ombudsman said.

Insurance firm Aviva Group had five complaints upheld, including one fully and one substantially.

Bank of Ireland Group also had five, but all five were only partially upheld, according to the report.

However, Bank of Ireland Mortgage Bank had three complaints upheld, including one fully and one substantially.

Ombudsman Ger Deering criticised some insurance firms for “unreasonable and disproportionate” actions in relation to customer policies.

He said:

“Some insurance companies continue to void policies in a manner which I consider to be unreasonable and disproportionate. Where a person has an insurance policy cancelled by an insurance company due to alleged non-disclosure, or for whatever reason, this can have serious implications and render it very difficult, and in some instances almost impossible, for that person to get any sort of insurance cover subsequently.”

Life insurance firm Zurich Ireland and insurance company AA Ireland rounded out the Ombudsman’s list of firms that had at least three complaints fully, substantially or partially upheld.

Of the total 5,588 complaints made against firms, 3,104 or 56% related to banking products, the report said.

Mortgage complaints accounted for a third of all complaints received, while insurance products accounted for another third.

Some 6% of complaints received related to pension schemes, and 5% related to investment products, the watchdog’s report said.

Motor insurance was the main product type complained about, representing 29% of insurance complaints.

Mr Deering said he “firmly” believed the voiding of an insurance policy is something should not be done lightly.

“To avoid the risk of non-disclosure and the potential voiding of policies, I hold the view that insurance companies and insurance intermediaries should ask questions prior to the inception of a policy in a clear manner and ensure that customers are clear on what they are being asked and the potential consequences of answering incorrectly.

“Furthermore, insurance companies should exercise caution and prudence when considering cancelling an insurance policy and should not take steps which might reasonably be considered disproportionate,” Mr Deering said.

Some 4,443 complaints were closed in 2018, the report said, with 2,331 complaints closed using mediation.

Mr Deering said complaints in relation trackers comprised a large element of the more than 1,700 mortgage-related complaints.

The €1bn tracker mortgage scandal, which happened when customers were wrongly put on more expensive loans over a number of years by more than a dozen lenders, has affected 40,000 customers, according to the Central Bank.

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