Short-term insurance ombud returns R100m to consumers
The ombudsman’s office recovered slightly less money for policyholders in 2016 than it did in 2015, because the office finalised fewer complaints last year. reports
The Ombudsman for Short-term Insurance, Deanne Wood, recovered just under R100 million for consumers last year, only marginally less than in 2015, according to the ombudsman’s annual report for 2016, released this week.
Last year’s figure was R99 139 593; in 2015 it was R100 712 182.
These amounts are down from those recovered in 2013 (R118 937 888) and 2014 ( R116 249 665), while the total number of complaints received by the ombudsman’s office has ranged from 13 278 in 2013 to 14 916 last year.
“The reduction in the rand recovery can be explained by the concomitant reduction in the number of files closed in 2016,” says Wood, who succeeded Dennis Jooste as ombudsman in March last year.
Of the 14 916 complaints received last year, 10 175 were registered as formal complaints, and of these, 8 631 files were closed. In 2015, of the 14 136 complaints received, 9 784 were registered as formal complaints, and of these, 9 944 were closed. In other words, 1 313 fewer complaints were closed last year than in 2015.
Wood reports that the average turnaround time per complaint “remains within commendable levels, at 91 days”.
More than a third of complaints were resolved in less than 60 days, and only 6% of complaints took more than 180 days to resolve.
The ombud’s office primarily deals with personal lines cover – in other words, insurance for individuals, such as vehicle, homeowner’s, household contents, and all risks cover. It has jurisdiction for personal lines cover up to R2m, except for homeowner’s claims, which can be up to R4m.
It has limited jurisdiction over commercial lines policies, although this type of insurance makes up a small percentage of complaints (7% in 2016).
Motor vehicle claims attracted the most complaints, at almost half of the complaints received by the ombudsman’s office last year (see graphic, right).
The report provides the claims and complaint statistics of all the 55 insurance companies over which the office has jurisdiction. From these you can get some idea of which insurers have more problem claims among their policyholders – particularly from the number of complaints per thousand claims and the overturn rate (which relates to when the ombudsman overturns In 2016, the office of the Ombudsman for Short-term Insurance, Deanne Wood: • Received 14 916 complaints; • Registered 10 175 of these as formal complaints; • Closed 8 631 complaints; • Resolved complaints partly or wholly in favour of the consumer in 27% of cases; • Took an average of 91 days to close a complaint, with a third of complaints closed within 60 days; and • Recovered R99 139 593 for consumers, of which about 60% (R59 238 533) was for motorvehicle insurance claims. an original claim decision by an insurer).
The ombudsman notes: “Where an insurer receives a high number of complaints per thousand claims, this may be an indicator that claims are dealt with unfairly by the insurer. However, this statistic should be considered in conjunction with the overturn rate. The overturn rate is an indicator that the decision of the insurer was changed in some respect by this office, with some additional benefit to the insured.”
But the ombudsman says the overturn rate should also be treated with caution, “as a high overturn rate may indicate a high degree of co-operation received by the ombudsman’s office from a particular insurer in resolving a complaint”.
The table (right) provides the 10 insurers with the highest number of complaints per thousand. The average overturn rate among all the insurers was about 27%.
Although Compass Insurance had the highest complaints relative to claims (about 30 per 1 000), its overturn rate was relatively low, at 9.38%. Five of the insurers in the table, on the other hand (Western National, Oakhurst, New National, Absa and Standard) had relatively high complaints per thousand claims. In addition, they had above-average overturn rates.
Among the bigger insurers with the most favourable statistics on how they treat their policyholders’ claims are Constantia Insurance ( 1.07 complaints per thousand claims and an 11.36% overturn rate) and Outsurance (1.62 and 11.63%).
Wood says in her report that quality outcomes are essential to the proper functioning of an ombud scheme.
“It is therefore important that consumers feel listened to, are given a clear and accurate explanation of the outcome of their complaint and feel that their matter has been addressed in a fair, comprehensible, correct and impartial way.
“At the opposite end, insurers should feel confident that the office operates as an extension of their own quality assurance to their clients. Insurers are also entitled to have their positions heard and their reasoning and rationale properly considered,” she says.