Ombudsman's team just for Christchurch

20:24, Sep 26 2011

The Insurance and Savings Ombudsman's office has set up a team to deal specifically with Christchurch complaints about insurance companies.

The team is managed by Iain Opray, who said that although the office was dealing with only nine complaints so far, it had fielded about 250 queries from Christchurch people since the earthquakes.

The office, which is funded by the insurance industry, provides a free, independent, dispute-resolution service. A dispute must have gone through the company's own complaints process before the office can get involved.

Opray said a common theme was frustration at delays, with clients thinking nothing was happening when often that was not the case.

Another theme was people wanting advice on the offer they had received from their insurance company.

"We can't really advise in that area. Our concern is making sure people are getting what they are entitled to under their insurance policy. We are moving to the more meatier issues.

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"What we are trying to do with the enquiries is prevent them from becoming complaints, either by bringing expectations to a reasonable level or saying we will make an enquiry on your behalf. Sometimes there is a fair bit of emotion and we need to get the facts."

Frequently people had not made a formal complaint and the office was able to provide a contact person.

"At this stage we're only scratching the surface. My job in the next few weeks is to visit the insurance companies to actually get more of a handle on what is actually happening with the companies. I can then advise consumers from a more knowledgeable point of view."

The office did not tell insurance companies how to run their business, and the cost of premiums was outside its brief.

"But as things are picking up pace and repairs are being done we're trying to bring ourselves up to speed with these things. It's not that we have been asleep for the last year.

"We have actually been discussing with insurers all the way through. Things have gone up a notch now and that's really a question of upskilling our knowledge."

The Press