With the better weather now upon us, perhaps you’ve got a special getaway booked.
But before you grab your sun hat, slather on the factor 30 and make the dash to the airport, take a few moments to consider this: will your travel insurance policy also give you the protection you need while you’re away?
As with all insurance, taking out travel cover gives us peace of mind in case the worst happens. However, the level of disputes seen by the ombudsman service, which sorts out gripes between consumers and financial firms, suggests there’s more we can do when arranging and updating policies to avoid heartache later down the line.
An investigation by regulator the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) into travel and household insurance looked to see if there are signs that people are coming up against systematic attempts by insurers to wriggle out of valid claims; “no evidence” was found. It added that if customers are seeing delays to their claims being processed, this is likely to be down to poor processes or management and not any deliberate attempts by firms to drag their heels. (The regulator will publish its full findings in May.)
Nevertheless, the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) gets 45 complaints a week from people who’ve had trouble with travel insurance policies, and 40 a week from people with home contents insurance gripes.
A spokeswoman for the service says: “It is important to be aware of the possible pitfalls before purchasing a policy, whether that’s before you go on holiday or to protect your most prized possessions.
“If your claim has been turned down, and you do not feel you have been treated fairly by your insurer, get in touch with the ombudsman — we are here to help get things sorted.”
The ombudsman upholds around 53% of consumers’ complaints about travel insurance, complaints which tend to have common themes, like problems due to unforeseeable delays causing people to miss flights, insurers turning down claims when someone has had to cancel their holiday, lost luggage or damaged items, and issues arising from medical claims.
Personal possession claims arising from a holiday can also cause problems, from cash and jewellery to passports and electronic gadgets.
So how can you avoid a dispute with your insurer? Here are some tips from the ombudsman service:
* Remember that travel insurance policies can vary considerably in price and level of cover. Find a policy that works for you. The cheapest policy isn’t always the best and any savings you make when taking out a policy may cost you when you come to make a claim.
* Think about when you want the cover to start. Most policies will only cover you for the days that you take the policy out, which could mean if you have to cancel the holiday before the policy begins, you won’t be covered.
* If you are planning on taking more than one trip this year, it might be worth getting an annual policy. But don’t forget to tell your insurer if your circumstances change during this time.
* Declare any known medical conditions to your insurer, otherwise you risk your policy becoming void if you need to make a claim relating to ill-health or a previous injury.
* If you’re planning on taking part in any adventure sports, such as bungee jumping or diving, check you’re covered by your policy. Some sports you might not consider to be adventure sports are categorised as such by insurers.
* If you’re flashing a bit of bling around while you’re away, check what limits apply to your policy for carrying valuable items around. If your hotel has a safe, use it!
* If the worst happens, keep a note of any correspondence between you and your insurer.