How to make a car insurance complaint

You fork out hundreds of pounds for motor insurance each year, but what if you feel the service you receive isn’t up to scratch or you’ve been unfairly treated over a claim? Here’s how to complain about your car insurance provider and what steps you can take if you don’t get a satisfactory response.

You fork out hundreds of pounds for motor insurance each year, but what if you feel the service you receive isn’t up to scratch or you’ve been unfairly treated over a claim? Here’s how to complain about your car insurance provider and what steps you can take if you don’t get a satisfactory response.

Daniel Hutson
Motor insurance expert
6
minute read
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Posted 25 JANUARY 2022 Last Updated 7 FEBRUARY 2022

What is a car insurance complaint?

If you’re unhappy about the service or product provided by your car insurance provider, you have the right to complain. 

Financial firms regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), which include insurance providers, must have a procedure in place for resolving disputes with their customers. They must also respond to a complaint within set timescales.

When should you make a car insurance complaint?

There’s any number of reasons why you might be disgruntled with your car insurance provider, but here are some of the most common:

Substandard car repairs

You might have a grievance about how your insurance provider has dealt with repairing your vehicle after an accident. Common complaints include delays to repairs, the quality of work carried out, further damage caused during the repair, lack of a courtesy car and the decision to repair the vehicle instead of writing it off. Working out who’s responsible for the repair can also often be a bone of contention.

Low car valuation

Undervaluing your car if it’s been written off in an accident is another reason you might feel the need to complain. Insurance providers will only pay out what they believe the vehicle was worth when the accident happened, not its original market value. This can be contested if you don’t agree with the valuation. 

Customers who’ve taken out GAP insurance to cover this shortfall might also have cause for complaint if they’ve had a lower-than-expected pay-out.

Misrepresentation and non-disclosure disagreements

A car insurance provider might refuse a pay-out if it believes you lied or failed to disclose something important when you took out the policy – like penalty points on your licence. 

Modifying your car without telling your provider may also invalidate a claim. But it’s not always black and white. If the non-disclosure wasn’t deliberate and doesn’t affect the claim that’s being turned down, you may have a case for complaining.

Renewal problems

When your policy is nearing its renewal date, your insurance provider is required by law to send you a reminder with the new amount and what you paid last year. This gives you the chance to shop around for a better deal. If the provider doesn’t do this, you have the right to complain. 

At renewal, the provider is also expected to ask whether your circumstances have changed, rather than just checking your card details are correct and taking the payment. So if, at a later stage, it rejects a claim based on the information you’ve given, it’s possible you have grounds for complaint.

Loss of no-claims discount

Another instance when you might want to challenge your insurance provider is if it logs you as being ‘at fault’ for an accident that you don’t believe you caused. Having a fault claim on your record can cause you to lose your no claims discount or have your premium increased.

How do you make an official car insurance complaint?

The first step is to complain to your car insurance provider directly. Disputes can often be sorted quickly and easily over the phone. But make a note of the date and time, along with who you speak to and details of what’s discussed, in case you need to escalate your complaint further down the line.

If the matter can’t be resolved over the phone, you can write an official email or letter of complaint to your insurance provider. It should have a formal complaints procedure outlined on its website that you can follow. 

When filing a complaint against your car insurance provider, make sure your letter includes:

  • your policy number, date, name and postcode 
  • evidence to support your complaint
  • how you would like your provider to put things right.

Make it clear that it’s a complaint and mention that you’ll take the matter to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) if you don’t receive a satisfactory outcome.

What happens after you make a complaint against your car insurance provider?

Your insurance provider should contact you to acknowledge your complaint, normally within five working days. 

You’ll usually be assigned a case officer or complaint handler to investigate your grievance. They should keep you informed with regular updates and let you know the outcome of the investigation.

Your provider will send you confirmation of its final decision in writing. If it upholds your complaint (in other words, accepts it made a mistake), it will tell you what action it intends to take to put things right for you. If your provider rejects your motor insurance complaint, the letter should explain why.

How long does it take to get a response from a car insurance complaint?

Once you’ve made a formal complaint, your car insurance provider must resolve the matter within eight weeks. But, in most cases, it shouldn’t take this long as your provider will usually aim to deal with your issue as soon as possible.

If your complaint is complex and going to take a while to resolve, your provider should contact you to let you know when it hopes to reach a final decision. It should keep you updated on the progress of your complaint at regular intervals.

How to escalate your car insurance complaint

If your insurance provider hasn’t resolved your motor insurance complaint within eight weeks or has rejected it, you can take it to the next level by contacting the Financial Ombudsman Service. This is an impartial organisation that deals with all types of financial complaints, including car insurance.

The service is free to use, but you should only contact the FOS once you’ve gone through your insurance provider’s formal complaints procedure. 

You’ll need to contact the FOS within six months of receiving your final response letter from your insurance provider. It will weigh up the facts of your case and try to reach a fair judgment or a settlement that both parties are willing to accept.

If it sides with you, the FOS has the authority to make your insurance provider apologise, put the situation right and potentially award you compensation for any financial loss you’ve suffered or to recognise the impact of what went wrong. The compensation paid would be dependent on your individual circumstances, up to a maximum of £355,000 for cases brought after 1 April 2020.

If it rules against you and you’re still unhappy with the outcome, you can take your case to the small claims court. But it’s advisable you only do this as a last resort because you’ll incur costs and the court may be unlikely to rule any differently to the ombudsman.

Frequently asked questions

What if your car insurance complaint doesn’t get a response?

If your car insurance provider fails to respond to your complaint within eight weeks, you can take your case to the Financial Ombudsman Service. It will investigate your side of the story, ask the business involved to explain what it thinks happened, then decide whether to uphold your complaint.

How do you complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service?

You’ll need to fill in a form, which you can get from the FOS website. Alternatively, you can phone the FOS helpline on 0800 023 4567 between 8am and 5pm, Monday to Friday, and 9am and 1pm on Saturday.

Can you get cheaper car insurance if you complain?

It depends what your complaint is. If you think the renewal of your policy has been mishandled or you’ve incorrectly lost your no-claims bonus, you may be able to get cheaper motor insurance. And providers may offer discounts by way of apology for poor service. But there are no guarantees. 

The best thing to do if you’re not happy with your car insurance provider is to compare deals with us and switch to a new provider.

How can you avoid car insurance disputes?

Make sure you read the terms and conditions of your car insurance policy carefully, so you know exactly what you’re covered for – and what you’re not. That way, you can hopefully avoid any nasty shocks and potential disputes further down the line.

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