Central Bank fines Aviva €500k for breaches of complaints code

The Central Bank has fined Aviva almost €500,000 for breaches of consumer protection codes in both its life and pensions and its health divisions.

The firm’s health division was fined €245,000 after the Central Bank examined a sample of 198 of its customer complaint files. Of those, 163 were found to contain what the bank described as “clear breaches of one of more of the complaints handling provisions of the code”.

It found that Aviva Health Insurance had failed between June 2009 and Dec 2010 to:

* Acknowledge each complaint in writing within five business days of the complaint being received.

* Provide complainants with the name of one or more individuals appointed by the regulated entity to be the complainant’s point of contact in relation to the complaint until the complaint is resolved or cannot be processed any further.

* Provide complainants with a regular written update on the progress of the investigation of the complaint at intervals of not greater than 20 business days.

* Inform complainants of their right to refer their complaint to the relevant ombudsman and provide them with the contact details of the ombudsman.

* Maintain an up-to-date record of complaints.

* Offer complainants the opportunity to have their verbal complaints treated as a written complaint.

In the life and pensions arm of the business, the Central Bank examined 76 sample customer complaints and found 50 of those contained clear breaches. Aviva Life and Pensions was also fined €245,000 because it had failed between July 2007 and Jan 2011 to address the same issues which had been raised in the health insurance division.

The Central Bank did say that in both sectors, Aviva undertook “immediate measures to rectify the issues that were identified on foot of the thematic review, including the implementation of new systems and procedures and an enhanced training programme in order to prevent reoccurrence”.

Peter Oakes, the director of enforcement with the Central Bank, said proper complaints handling policies and procedures were fundamental to ensuring the speedy, efficient and fair treatment of consumers who complain about products and services.

“Incomplete procedures, inadequate systems and controls and not employing effectively resources in the area of complaints handling can jeopardise the level of protection owed to consumers and accordingly undermines the special trust consumers place in financial service providers,” he said.

“Today’s fine reflects the seriousness with which we view breaches of the [consumer protection] code and the importance that we place upon proper complaints handling by firms, including adherence to the complaints handling provisions as set out in the code. Firms must ensure that consumers can have confidence from the outset in the way that their complaint will be treated.

“The first step in this process is ensuring the complaint is processed in accordance with the manner and timeframes specified in the code.”


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