More mobile phone insurance complaints being upheld

Mobile phones

The Financial Ombudsman Service is upholding more complaints about mobile phone insurance than almost any other financial product, it has revealed.

The Ombudsman received 343 mobile phone insurance complaints between April and November 2013, an average of 38 a month, and found in the consumer's favour 75% of the time (between April and September).

In the 12 months to March 2013, the ombudsman found in the consumer's favour in 71% of cases, which it said was "a considerably higher uphold rate than most other financial products".

The most common complaints include the mis-sale of insurance on the grounds that many policies contain restrictions or exclusions that affect whether a claim will be paid.

"People often tell us that if they'd realised the contract was so restrictive, they wouldn't have taken it out," said the ombudsman in a statement.

The issue of suitability was another key area of complaint, with many consumers having been sold insurance while not realising they had cover in place elsewhere.

'Restrictive' terms and conditions contained in the policy wording that prevent claims being made was another source of complaint - such as ‘leaving your phone unattended' even if the phone was by your side on a table.

The ombudsman also received complaints from customers who assumed their policy would update when their mobile phone was upgraded, only to find that it didn't when they needed to make a claim.

The small print

Lead ombudsman Caroline Mitchell said: "We were seeing complaints from people whose phone had been stolen - but their claim had been rejected because there hadn't been any physical violence involved."

She added: "We saw claims for stolen phones that had been rejected because the consumer hadn't witnessed the theft. And we heard from consumers who had claimed for accidental loss, but whose claims were rejected because they remembered where they had left the phone - usually on a bus or a train."

Complaints about debt collection also arrived at the Financial Ombudsman Service thick and fast during April to November - at a rate of more than one a day.

During the period, it received around 45 complaints on average each month and the ombudsman said it is currently siding with consumers in 40% of cases.

It said phone harassment by debt collectors due to the number of calls being made or the attitude of staff was the chief area of complaint, followed by issues relating to the way disputed debts are handled.

Other common problems were related to people being chased for debts that were not theirs or for debts they had already repaid or agreed a payment.