Who should I contact if I'm experiencing car insurance problems?
Like many industries, the car insurance industry has chosen to regulate itself. At the moment, there are two main trade organisations that operate in the field of insurance in order to help you if you wish to report a problem with your insurance company.
The first of these is the Association of British Insurers (ABI) which is the member organisation of the companies. The members of the ABI will always try and follow the code of conduct set down for them, but should you have a grievance it will be taken on by the ABI itself, which will take a number of steps to escalate your complaint. This could include making sure the complaint is dealt with by a senior staff member.
The other organisation that can help you by dealing with complaints is the Insurers Brokers Registration Council (the IBRC), which counts amongst it's members many of the providers as well. You should find out which organisation your insurance provider belongs to before you commit to them.
Recently there has been a new organisation emerging, with increasing number of insurance providers joining. The General Insurance Standards Council is gradually taking charge of the regulation of the insurance industry. Eventually, the hope is that the GISC will be the first place to go for any complaints about the insurance policy or the way in which it was sold.
So, in the first instance you need to complain to your insurance provider directly. Put your complaint in writing, stating clearly what the complaint is about. If you are complaining about service, you should use chronology to tell the story of your treatment. If you want to complain about how your policy was sold to you, you should do the same thing, trying to remember who said what to you and when.
Having complained to your insurance company, if you are not satisfied then you should find out from the company what their recommended complaints procedure is and follow that. The company should belong to an independent complaints scheme (if they don't then don't take out a policy with them in the first place).
The complaints scheme will fall into two possible categories. They could be an ombudsman scheme or an arbitration scheme. With an arbitration scheme, you are basically accepting that your case will not go to court, but will instead come before an independent arbitrator who will decide who is in the right. You can only start an arbitration procedure if you and the insurer commit to accepting the decision. An ombudsman scheme means that you will get an official decision but you can still take your case to court should you not accept it. Remember that going to court can be both lengthy and costly.