Insurance and Saving complaints rise

The Insurance and Savings Ombudsman has resolved the largest number of complaints in 16 years, with almost $2 million paid out to disgruntled customers.

The ISO scheme is an independent disputes resolution service which handles consumers' complaints about insurers and other financial services.

The scheme's annual report shows 3215 complaint enquiries were received and 300 complaints were investigated in the year to June 30, the highest level since 1998.

Part of the increase was due to the growing number of companies participating in the scheme, from 47 in 2010 to 4386 this year.

Insurance Ombudsman Karen Stevens said the service had been expanded in 2010 to include providers of investments, loans and credit, superannuation, financial advice and foreign exchange.

That had resulted in "rapid growth", which she expected to continue.

However, the vast majority of complaints, some 93 per cent, still related to insurance.

About 60 per cent were in the general insurance category, with house insurance the number one complaint.

Unresolved complaints from the Canterbury earthquakes made up a significant portion, with more than 1450 quake-related enquiries and over 120 complaints dealt with since late 2010.

Travel insurance disputes over pre-existing conditions and policy exclusions also featured strongly, with contents insurance arguments relating to proof of purchase and falsified information.

The most common vehicle insurance complaint related to the settlement amount for the market value of a vehicle.

Almost $2 million was paid out to complainants over the year. The proportion of complaints which the ISO upheld or partially upheld was 14 per cent, double the previous year's 7 per cent.

Settlements remained the same at 20 per cent of complaints, while 65 per cent were not upheld, down from 73 per cent.

The average time it took to close a complaint was about three months.