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General insurers fall short on disputes: FOS

General insurance companies are increasingly failing to resolve disputes within the 45-day registration and referral timeframe set by the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS).

In about half of disputes accepted by FOS, insurers fail to provide a response.

Lead Ombudsman for General Insurance John Price told this “reflects very poorly on the industry”.

He blames a lack of resources among insurers and the nature of disputes.

The number of general insurance disputes increased 33% to 2947 in the December quarter compared with the corresponding period in 2015.

The increase cannot be attributed to any particular insurer but is “a continuation of people’s awareness of their rights”, Mr Price says.

The “more disturbing” trend is that 36% of all accepted disputes come from this sector.

“This reflects on the general insurance community’s failure to resolve matters in our registration and referral stage,” he said.

Mr Price says FOS is working closely with insurers, which are keen to rectify the issues.

One example is a conciliation scheme that has so far recorded a 60% resolution rate.

The initial pilot, which involves conciliation via phone, ran from last June to September with one volunteer financial services provider and one insurer.

“We’ve now expanded the conciliation process to include more financial service providers and insurers, and everything is very positive,” Mr Price said.

“Even for matters that aren’t resolved, it helps clarify the issues and identify the sticking point.”

A FOS survey shows increased satisfaction among both parties in the process.

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