What Is A Warranty?

As we are in the busiest time of the year for buying electrical goods such as mobile phones, games consuls, TV’s and everything else that has a plug on it, it is also the busiest time for retailers to sell extended warranties. These are guarantees that give you greater cover against damage or breakdown than the guarantee that usually comes as standard with the item you have bought.

They can come as a product that is bought at a one off price at the time of purchase or can be a monthly payment that lasts as long as the warranty is designed to run. They can be specific to the item you have bought, or can offer “blanket cover” over several qualifying items. One thing they all have in common is that they are all a bit different!

Before you agree to buy an extended warranty on anything you need to find out a few things:

  1. What does the guarantee that automatically comes for free with the item cover and for how long? You may well be happy with having that.
  2. Is the cost of the warranty worth it? I once bought an iron for £20 and the optimistic salesperson tried his hardest to sell me the £15 warranty.
  3. What does the extended warranty actually cover?

    Let’s look at these a little more closely.

    What does the guarantee that automatically comes for free with the item cover and for how long?

Most things you buy in this country come with some form of guarantee against it breaking down or developing a fault. Although this seems straightforward, there are things you should be aware of. Firstly, it relates to things bought in this country. Online purchases made from abroad or even purchases while you are in another country may not have the same protection as you can expect from buying in the UK. As a general rule, it is a wise move to make such purchases with a credit card as that will give further protection to you if things go wrong. The Money Advice Service gives a good summary of how this works, click here to read it.

The next thing to look at is how long is the guarantee? One year is quite common, but by no means can this be taken for granted. Any period is possible, and obviously, the longer the better! If the item has been “refurbished”, “display” or is sold as “seconds”, the guarantee may only be a month. It still should be of merchandisable quality though and you should enjoy the same consumer rights as if it were sold as new.

A lot of guarantees require you to fill out a registration card at the time of purchase so you can easily be found should you get in touch. I’m sure that acquiring names and addresses for marketing purposes doesn’t even cross their minds. If you do not fill out the registration, it can make claiming on the guarantee more long winded and awkward, but it should still be honoured, so be persistent.

Although Guarantees have a lot in common and meet broadly similar minimum standards, they can, and do, have wide variations. It should be treated as a legal contract and as such you should read what is in it. If there is anything in it you do not understand, then you should ask about it before purchase. Citizens Advice have a page devoted to The Consumer Rights Act 2015 which is well worth a visit

Is the cost of the warranty worth it?

Seriously, this is a matter of common sense. If you are buying an item that you can easily afford to replace if you accidentally throw it at the telly while watching England getting knocked out on penalties again, then don’t spend anything on a further extended warranty. You may have an accidental claim on the telly through your insurance though.

If it’s a warranty that you are going to pay for monthly, then add up the total to see if it is worth it. Often the retailer is getting a commission for selling the extended warranty. knowing this, I have occasionally used this to my advantage and got the price of the item reduced. certainly doesn’t work every time, but it has worked, and if you don’t ask – you don’t get!

When working out the value of the warranty, it’s not just the price you should consider. There will be a long list of terms and conditions on the contract and it really is down to you to read them and decide whether or not to run with it. These terms and conditions will set out the circumstances that the item can be repaired or replaced and who meets the cost of getting the item to and from the repairer. Do not assume anything. If its written in the forms, then that’s what they will refer back to. if it’s not written in the forms, then they will argue the point.

What does the extended warranty actually cover?

The big print will refer to breakdown and damage amongst other things. The small print will specify which parts qualify and which parts won’t, there can also be maximum cash limits and time limits. The fact of the matter is that you will be offered an extended warranty with no more than a “Would you like the warranty, it costs xxxx amount” If you buy it on that basis, you really have no idea what you have just bought and as the chances of a potential claim arising is very low, the chances of you paying for something you do not need and is no use to you is highly likely.

The events that are covered are set out in the warranty paperwork, you must read it as every one is slightly different. Most are “Service Agreements” rather than “Insurance” products and as such they are not regulated by the Financial Services Authority.

What can I do to make a good decision?

The main thing you can do is not buy it until you know exactly what you are buying. Be awkward and ask questions and ask to see the relevant paperwork that confirms what you are being told. The Money Advice Service has written an excellent piece on extended warranties which I recommend you read. There is also an online comparison website which is a really useful tool when deciding whether to buy one or not.

Coffee Mugs?

“May I have a coffee, please”

“Certainly, that will be 21 minutes”

My coffee of choice is a latte, not skinny, no syrups just a straightforward latte. In Costa, a medium size latte will cost £2.55 and is typical of the price of a coffee in many cafe’s up and down the country, be they global chains or single outlets. it’s a price that I have been fortunate enough not to take much notice of over the years. Then I retired and prior to turning my full attention to writing, I decided to take a part time job to keep me occupied and pay my bills, it was there that I experienced the “minimum wage.” Currently £7.20 an hour for the over 25’s.

It was also there that the cold reality of the link between how long I worked and the cost of things really hit home. The bottom line was that I needed to work 21 minutes to buy a cup of coffee. Several friends of mine buy a take away coffee every day on the way to work. That’s £12.75 per week. A good percentage of those same people buy a £3 meal deal for their lunch. That’s another £15 per week.

So… One coffee and a meal deal is £5.55 a day. That’s £27.75 a week. That’s £1332 a year! (I used 48 instead of 52 to take account of a few weeks holiday!) To go back to my minimum wage calculation that equates to having to work 11,100 minutes or 185 hours. About a working month.

According to the Office of National Statistics, the average weekly wage in the UK is £539 per week. As someone living in the West Country, I have huge issues with this figure as I know few people earning close to this in the area I live. However, for my current purposes, I will run with it as even on that figure £27.75 still represents over 5% of the average weekly wage. Even people lucky enough to be on average earnings work over two weeks just to buy lunch.

Throughout my career I felt it was not my job to question the financial decisions people made. Rather it was my job to clarify a situation and set out realistic options to solving problems. If someone wants to spend over £600 a year on take away coffee then they go with my blessing. But I wonder how many that are spending that much have looked at the cost a bit more closely. I wish I had long before I “retired”

Fees and How to Avoid Them

Why am I being charged a fee?

The answer is simple, it is because the company charging it either cannot survive without charging it, or the company charging it knows it can get away with it… in the majority of cases anyway.

How is the Fee Calculated?

In several ways. Insurance is highly competitive so one thing a company looks at is the fees that its competitors are charging. If it is working for them, then its’s about right. Next, they will look at their own costs. This varies whether you are dealing direct with an insurance company, or using an intermediary such as a broker or online comparison company.

If you are using a broker that has given you a service such as professional advice, then you would expect a fee would go toward the the cost of running an office, training and regulatory costs. If you are not getting advice, either going online or direct, then your attitude toward the fee would, I suspect be very different.

The Gift that Keeps Giving!

While, in a lot of cases, an appropriate fee can be justified at the commencement of a policy, the ongoing fees that are levied are a lot more difficult to defend.

It is crucial that you keep your insurance provider up to date with changes in your circumstances. If you do not, then your cover is very much at risk. However, one off charges of up to £50 for changing your address or adding (or taking off) a named driver from your policy are, frankly, outrageous.

There is no doubt that the competitive nature of the cost of insurance means that companies do what they can to show a premium as low as they can get it. There is an argument that says this in itself is a huge problem because it may also be that the low premium is because the cover given is not that great. That’s a discussion for another day. With regards to fees and admin charges, they help to boost the income of the insurance provider whilst allowing them to appear to give good value premiums.

What Can I Do About It?

Insurance providers love people that are lazy. People that don’t bother to shop around at renewal, people who just let their direct debit chug along without checking the amount going out, and definitely people who do not question what they are up to. If you see an admin fee on your new quote, or on your renewal, the first thing to ask yourself is do you think it is reasonable? As I said before, there is a genuine case for reasonable admin fees. If however you do not think it is, then talk to them. They may convince you that it is justified, or, you may convince them to reduce it or get rid of it altogether!

Fees that are charged for changes to your policy are a little more tricky to deal with. To get the best result here you need to have looked at the terms and conditions of the policy at outset. You would at least be aware of the costs involved before you make changes. It is still the case though that you can contact your provider and see if the charges can be cancelled. You won’t be lucky every time, but in my experience the chances are about 50/50. Don’t forget that you can switch providers during the term of your policy. You need to be careful here as there are repercussions regarding the allocation of  No Claims Discount, especially on motor policies, but if this is not an issue then you should be able to switch providers quite easily in order to get a better deal following something like a change of address.

 

Are you insured against Father Christmas?

For insurance purposes, Santa is no different to any other intruder…

By any definition, Father Christmas is an intruder. Possibly one with a large, semi domesticated mammal as an accomplice. So what happens if your property is damaged during his visit? Or Rudolph is injured while navigating your hallway?

Your home insurance policy cover is relevant for both these events. Firstly though, it needs to be established whether or not Santa has actually been invited as a welcome guest or, like a benign burglar, he has just taken advantage of poor security. The answer may lay in the tradition of leaving food for both Santa and Rudolph, typically a carrot and a mince pie. It can be argued that by leaving these items you are tacitly inviting him into your home. A “Santa Please stop here” sign is definitely an invitation!

As an invited guest, there is no cover against him taking anything from you. This is not likely to be an issue given that his purpose is the complete opposite. However, what if he knocks your iphone off its charger and it breaks? Or Rudolph is particularly taken with your Waitrose Essential carrot and causes a particularly fine piece of majolica to topple over? The good news is that such events will almost certainly be covered under the “Accidental Damage” section of your policy.

But what if he is not a welcome guest? The only alternative can be that he is a trespasser, and as such the damage described above could be construed as criminal damage. For a claim to be successful there should be forceful entry and this is where you may find yourself in difficulty. The insurance company may well take the line that Santa’s modus operandi is common knowledge and question you as to what precautions you took with regard to blocking the chimney. It is unlikely that they will accept not having a chimney as an adequate answer. You could then possibly go down the route of suggesting that magic was used in the incident. From an insurance adjusters point of view, magic is rarely used in their reports as a cause, though I don’t want to put you off completely if you are convinced.

christmas-2

If you do make a claim, believing your loss to be a result of criminal damage, then the insurance company will insist that you notify the police. It will be down to them to decide how to investigate the incident. It is unlikely that you will be able to satisfy them as to forced entry, but it may be worth reflecting a little before presenting the possibility of magic being involved. The courts are no stranger to trials involving magic, however it has been over 300 years since they were common, so finding suitable legal argument may be difficult.

On balance, your claim is more likely to be dealt sympathetically if you do not accuse Santa of breaking and entering.

There is a section on your policy called “Property Owners Liability”. This section protects you from claims following injury or damage from third parties who are on your property and have suffered due to your negligence. The good news is that the cover is in place regardless of whether the third party is there by invitation or not. In short, it does not matter whether Father Christmas was there as a guest or a trespasser, if he or Rudolph injure themselves in your house due to your neglect, they can (and should) claim against you.

In such circumstances, you should take as much detail as possible about the incident, contact details and photographs are ideal. Santa is almost certainly self employed and should be carrying his own liability insurance details, which you should take. You should notify your insurer straight away and, after giving a statement yourself, it will be down to them to handle the claim. If an injury is involved, they may ask for medical (or vets) reports before offering a settlement.

It is not possible to cover all the possible insurance implications surrounding Santa’s visit, but this brief guidance should be enough to reassure you. If you have any questions about any of the above, just have a word with your broker or insurance company – I’m sure they will be delighted to help!

Merry Christmas

 

What Is An Equity Release Plan?

 

 

1. What Are The Different Types Of Equity Release?

The most common type is a “Lifetime Mortgage” which is a loan secured against the property, but unlike standard mortgages, the loan typically does not have to be repaid until the borrower dies or moves into permanent long term residential care. The original loan plus interest which has been added during the term of the loan is then repaid from the sale of the property. There are several variations of this style of Equity Release that can allow further borrowing or monthly repayments during the life of the loan.

A different type of Equity Release is the “Home Reversion Scheme”. This type of scheme involves actually selling all or part of the property to the scheme provider. The person taking out the scheme is then given the right to continue living in the property for the rest of their life. This blog will only look at the Lifetime Mortgage style of plan as it is by far the most popular.

Video courtesy of Dennis Perry at The Right Equity Release.

2. What Age Can You Do Equity Release?

Typically, these plans are available to people age 55 and above. If you are entering the arrangement as a couple then the youngest must be 55 or above. The amount you can borrow is shown as a percentage of the value of the house. Each plan provider is slightly different, but the basic concept is that the percentage you can borrow increases as you get older. Such plans are designed to be repaid on death, or taking permanent residence in a care home. With this in mind, someone entering an Equity Release arrangement at age 55 should understand that if they live to 100, then the plan will last or 45 years. Something to think about considering the mortgage that was probably used to but the property in the first place was over a 25 year term!

3. Are all Properties Eligible For Equity Release?

No.

Okay, I’ll expand on that a bit more. Not all properties are eligible as security for these plans. Here are the most common rules that apply as of now:

  •  The property must be owned by you and be in the UK. This property must be your main residence and occupied by you. If you are a couple, but the property is in just one name, then it will need to be transferred into both names before proceeding
  • If the property is leasehold, then the remaining term of the lease must be over a certain number of years. Different providers have different rules.
  • Just like any mortgage, the proposed lender will have their own criteria regarding the construction, age and minimum value for the property. If you have a 400 year old, cob built house worth £80,000, you are going to find that the market is somewhat smaller than if you have a 50 year old standard built property worth £300,000.
  • You will need to use the money you borrow or “release” to pay off any existing mortgage or loan secured on the property immediately. You are then free to use whatever money is left over for your other financial needs.
  • Your property must be in a reasonable condition.

4. Are Equity Release Plans regulated?

Yes.

Advisers for this product have to be qualified, and in addition to taking exams they have to show that their knowledge is up to date and of a certain standard. Like all mortgage related products, equity release products, providers and advisers are regulated by The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

In the FCA’s own words, taken from its own website, a purpose of the FCA is to ensure that “Financial markets need to be honest, fair and effective so that consumers get a fair deal”. In the event of any complaint you may have, it is the FCA you can turn to for help if you are unable to reach a satisfactory conclusion with the company you are in dispute with.

Although not a regulator, The Equity Release Council represents over 300 firms and individuals working within the equity release sector. These include providers, advisers, solicitors and intermediaries amongst others. Members of the ERC agree to a Statement of Principles which highlight a number of safeguards for consumers.

You are well advised to seek out the best qualified and experienced people to help you make your decision!

Next: Why Take An Equity Release Plan? 

Got A Question About Equity Release?

We’ve arranged for an expert in Equity Release to personally answer any question you might have. Just click here and you can write out your question in your own words and send it direct to them.

 

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Should Social Media profiling be used to determine Insurance Premiums?

Facebook Prevents Insurer from using Posts to influence Premiums

Today was supposed to be the launch of a pilot scheme by the insurer, Admiral, whereby they would ask to view the potential insured’s Facebook posts and then make a judgement as to the lifestyle and behaviour of the person and then offer a premium that was influenced by their judgement of that person.

Admiral had stated that it would analyse the accounts of first-time car owners, including what they were posting and things that they had “liked”. From this they would then build up a profile and determine whether they were likely to be safe drivers and offer discounts as a result.

Facebook has, at the last moment, pulled the plug on this. Probably because it realised that it could be embroiled in the considerable number of disputes and complaints that was sure to follow from such a subjective idea.

There are so many reasons why this crazy plan should not have got even this far. However, it does highlight the lengths insurers are prepared to go to in order to gain an edge in a market. Even if that market is as notoriously difficult to turn a profit from as young drivers.

My suspicion, having been around insurance companies for a while, is that some senior executives who wanted to appear hip, have ill advisedly listened to some trendy junior executives who have told them that the future is all about social media. In order to appear to be “on trend”, like your bachelor uncle who wants to take you to a Drake gig, said senior executives suspended their experience and, more importantly, common sense and ran with the idea.

While the pitfalls of this nonsense are pretty much self evident. It does invite closer thought. Long before social media was even a term, I was broking motor insurance. At that time, potential clients would either phone or drop in and complete a form from which a premium was calculated. But even then then problems would arise. It wasn’t common, but then again not that unusual for someone in the office to declare that they had some knowledge of the potential client that had not been declared. I have been told on more than one occasion that someone was not declaring their address properly, or not mentioning their part time evening job, in order to get a cheaper premium. How did they know? They lived next door to the person and knew they had moved months ago or saw them going to work every night!

Realistically speaking what actually is the difference between an insurer finding out “relevant” information from a third party as happened years ago and finding out such information from social media?

The point is that social media provides the type of information that all businesses will give their right arm for and whereas most people will resist attempts to give information if they think it will be used for marketing, most will be happy to volunteer such information, and a lot more, in a social media post.

Probably all young people are warned that potential  employers are likely to look at their social media profiles prior to being interviewed, and the more savvy ones will moderate what they post and who they let see it. The next level will be the use of social media profiling for commercial purposes, there is a good argument for saying that it is already here.

Perhaps Admiral’s biggest mistake was not trying to exploit social media, but just being too up front and honest about it. Even more of a mistake is the kind of information people are just thoughtlessly putting online for the world to see.

 

Further details of this news story can be found by clicking here and more information about car insurance and the use of Black Boxes here 

Insurance is not a Maintenance Contract!

The Great British Weather!

Unsurprisingly, Autumn and Winter bring with them the most number of claims for storm damage. From a few tiles coming off in a period of high winds, to a full on disaster like a roof being completely blown off in a near hurricane, your insurance policy sits in the background. It’s your safety net against such misfortune. However…

…Your insurance policy is a two way agreement.

When you took out your policy, there was a question that you almost certainly ticked “yes” to, without giving it a second thought, it was worded something like this: “Is your property in a good state of repair?”  I’ve always thought this to be a rather subjective question, one man’s “good state” is another man’s “right state”, but it becomes a little more serious when it comes to a claim.

The most common claims involving weather damage are roof related and/or water leaks, known in the insurance world as “water ingress”

With regard to the roof, the usual claim involves loss of tiles. This in itself is a fairly straightforward situation, or is it? There’s a period of high winds and rain that batters the roof over several hours, and when it is all over you find half a dozen tiles in the garden and obvious gaps in the roof. The first thing you do is find a roofer and get them around to give you an estimate of the cost of repair. In the meantime you call your insurance company to tell them and, in all likelihood, they arrange to send someone to look at the damage.

In the old days this used to be a qualified Loss Adjuster whose job it was to assess the claim and report back to the insurance company. He was trained and qualified in his field. Nowadays, Loss Adjuster’s are still frequently used, however, in recent years there has been the introduction of firms other than Loss Adjusters being contracted to do this type of work. If your insurance company is sending someone around to assess damage to your property, it is a good idea to find out just who they are and what qualifies them to make such assessments.

Back to the missing tiles…

There are in fact different ways of looking at a claim of this nature and that is where your own responsibility pays an important part. Here are two examples of exactly the same claim, but with very different outcomes. They show the two extremes, and in reality claims may fall at any point between them, but the idea is to illustrate the point.

Scenario 1.
The house is about 20 years old, you bought it 10 years ago and 4 years ago you had a loose tile fixed, had the guttering cleared and had some moss cleaned of some of the tiles. The Loss Adjuster looks at the storm damage and recommends payment of your claim in full. Your efforts in keeping the house in good repair have been rewarded!
Scenario 2.
The house is about 80 years old, you bought it 30 years ago. You have never done any maintenance on the roof. There are numerous loose, missing and slipped tiles, and the moss build up and general weathering prove that some tiles have been dislodged for quite some time. The Loss adjuster looks at the storm damage and recommends payment of the claim, but with an amount deducted because it was not in a good state of repair to start with. it is even possible that the claim be turned down completely, and in the worst case he could recommend that the insurance policy is cancelled completely.

When it comes to a claim, the insurance company will take into account the condition of the property prior to the claim event.

You should also bear in mind the importance of insuring the property for the correct amount. Underinsurance combined with poor state of repair will reduce your claim to a fraction of what it would have been. If you want to find out more about underinsurance and how important it is, just click here.

“Gradually Operating Cause”

The same principles apply to “ingress of water”. If the Loss Adjuster is satisfied that the property is in a poor state of repair, then your claim can be reduced or turned down completely. Another common reason for turning claims down for water damage is the assertion that the damage is a result of a “Gradually Operating Cause”. This is when damage occurs over some period of time, possibly due to a small escape of water that remains undetected until it causes some very noticeable damage.

In common terms, insurance is not there to compensate for problems arising from wear and tear

The Two Way Contract…

An insurance company takes you on as a client on the proviso that you will maintain your property and look after it in such a way that damage to it is minimised. If a potential claim occurs, but it is deemed that you have not kept your side of the bargain, then the insurance company has every right to turn you down.

There are obviously grey areas and should you feel that you have had a claim turned down unfairly, there is a process by which you can appeal a decision and even complain if you feel strongly enough. I have previously written about this in the post, How to Complain Effectively to Your Insurance Company

I hope you never have to deal with the aftermath of damage caused by the weather, but there is no guarantee you won’t. You have taken out insurance to protect you against such things, but to stand the best chance of getting your claim paid in full, you need to fulfil your side of the bargain first.

Equity Release

Your First Steps into Equity Release

I have been around the Equity Release market for over 25 years. I arranged them, researched them, written reports on them and even dealt with complaints about them. I don’t think I have known a product that polarises opinion as much as Equity Release.

For the people that absolutely said they would never get involved with one, most haven’t – but some have gone into the research and have concluded that it is, after all, a good idea for them. I have also dealt with people that couldn’t wait to reach a certain birthday because that would increase the amount they can take. For them, mostly, it has been a good experience, but again I can recall on several occasions, walking away from the situation because in my opinion it would have been a terrible idea.

More than any other product, Equity Release is a plan that is suitable for individual circumstances. Just because you may know someone who has got one, it has absolutely no bearing on whether it would be good for you. In order to find out whether it is going to be a good idea for you, or your parents or grandparents I would suggest taking these steps:

  • Take a thorough and honest review of your current situation.

    This should include all your financial circumstances – assets, income, debts…the whole kit & kaboodle!

  • Ask yourself why you want the money!

It may seem an obvious question, but it needs asking. Be certain why you want the money, be honest about whether it will be enough or not to achieve your goal. Ask yourself how you are going to feel once you’ve spent it. Don’t put yourself in the position of saying “well…was that it?”

  • Talk to a qualified and experienced adviser

    This is crucial. A true professional in this area will talk to you at length about what is good for you. Ask them about their experience and qualifications. ask about professional trade bodies. Taking an equity release plan is most likely to be the last major financial decision you make and the consequences effect not only you but your wider family. A good adviser will not let you proceed unless they are satisfied you have considered everything that is (or should be!) important to you.

old manThis blog is not in any way meant to persuade you for or against taking an Equity Release plan. The purpose, as with everything on the site, is to make you think about the questions you need to ask in order to make the right decisions for you and your family. Over the next few blog posts, I plan to write about what questions you need to ask, to yourself, your family and to professionals working in the Equity Release market

I hope you will pop back and read them as they are published, if you would like to be the first to know when they are, then just sign up to the newsletter!

 

Next: Equity Release Explained

 

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If you have any questions about Equity Release, contact Dennis direct by completing the form below.

How to Complain Effectively to Your Insurance Company

Why Complain?

For every complaint an insurance company receives, a lot more potential complaints are not made either through apathy, lack of confidence in the process or just “not getting around to it.”

Insurance companies are big beasts and as such they are inevitably going to get things wrong. I always believed that a true mark of a company was not so much what it had done to generate a complaint, but how it dealt with the complaint and the effort it made to impress a dissatisfied client.

There is little point in telling all your friends and family how bad your experience has been, without telling the company direct. It may seem hard to believe, but without customer feedback the people running the company may never get to be aware just how lousy their systems or service are and therefore never get the chance to improve things.

Obviously your desire to complain is not fueled entirely by altruism, and is instead centred on your desire to be adequately recompensed for whatever mess occurred. This can take the form of financial compensation, putting the administration right or just an acknowledgement of the problem with an apology.

It doesn’t matter why you are complaining or what it is about, the strategy you should use is the same:

  1. Keep it to the point

  2. Keep it polite

  3. Keep it going until you are satisfied

Keep It To The Point

Don’t ramble, repeat or go off on tangents.

When making a complaint, always do it in writing. The only reason for using the phone is to get a name and/or an address to write to. This information should be on policy documents and the company website anyway so I’m even doubtful about using the phone for this purpose!

Before writing the letter, make some notes on what the most important part(s) of your complaint are. These should include:

  • A brief outline of what has happened
  • Your name and policy number
  • Relevant dates
  • Any names you have had contact with and when
  • Details of any promises made to you, when and by whom
  • What you want to put things right
  • An accurate statement of costs you may have incurred
  • oh yeah…put the word “COMPLAINT” clearly at the top of your letter

This list is not exhaustive as each case is different, but these are the main points the company will be looking for.

Once you have made your notes, put them in a logical order and write your letter, use bullet points if you are happy to do so. They are short, punchy and easy to refer back to.

Don’t go on and on about how you feel, or the effect it has had on you and the world in general. If you are upset or annoyed then say it. But just the once. Don’t write paragraphs about how you have a nephew working in insurance and therefore you know all about the product/company/micro fiscal policy etc.. It has no relevance and can possibly slow the process down

Keep It Polite

Never. I mean never, use language you mum would be upset at. Never make it personal, and never threaten (unless it is just pointing out you can take the matter to the ombudsman. Which they really should know already!)

Keep it Going…

Although it is a bit shoddy, some companies may use a standard reply to your first approach. You may feel it is a tad woolly and doesn’t address address your concerns properly. Don’t give up! Take the time to write again, reiterating your points and highlighting where you think they have failed to address them.

Follow the Process

It might be a pain, but if you follow a prescribed process, it will speed things up – eventually! All companies have set complaints procedures and required time limits to do certain things. If a step is missed, it is like playing snakes and ladders and you will be taken back a few places in order to tick the required box.

If there was one “tip” that is more important than any other it is…

Keep a copy of everything…You WILL need it!

Still Not Happy?

You must give your provider the opportunity to resolve your issue. Sometimes though, this just doesn’t happen. If you get to the point where the company flatly rejects your complaint, you can then go to the Financial Ombudsman Service. Do not go to them any earlier, if you do, they will just refer you back to your company as it will be seen as still being a dispute with them.

The Financial Ombudsman Service is independent and free to use. They have a great website http://www.financial-ombudsman.org.uk/consumer/complaints.htm which is simply laid out and easy to follow. The biggest downside is that they receive about 5000 enquiries a day so their workload is large. Be prepared to wait several months for the matter to be concluded.