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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 make a car insurance complaint and what steps you can take to escalate your complaint to the ombudsman 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 make a car insurance complaint and what steps you can take to escalate your complaint to the ombudsman if you don’t get a satisfactory response.

Written by
Julie Daniels
Motor insurance comparison expert
Last Updated
19 JULY 2023
6 min read
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How do you make an official car insurance complaint?

If you’re not happy with the service you’ve received from your car insurance provider, you have the right to complain. Follow the steps below to make an official complaint:

1. Contact your insurance provider

The first step is to complain to your car insurance provider directly. Disputes can often be sorted quickly and easily over the phone or by email.

If you make your complaint over the phone, 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. Insurance providers will often record their calls with customers for this reason.

Keep all relevant email correspondence with your car insurance provider until the matter is resolved.

2. Write a letter of complaint

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

Make sure your letter includes:

  • Your policy number, date, name and postcode
  • Evidence to support your complaint
  • How you’d like your provider to put things right.

Clearly state that you’re making a complaint and mention that you’ll take the matter to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) if you don’t receive a satisfactory outcome.

Your insurance provider should acknowledge your complaint promptly. They then have up to eight weeks to resolve the matter and provide you with a final decision, in writing.

If your provider upholds your complaint (in other words, accepts they made a mistake), they’ll tell you what action they intend to take to put things right. If your provider rejects your motor insurance complaint, they should explain why.

3. Contact the ombudsman for car insurance

If you’re not happy with the response from your insurance provider, you can escalate your car insurance complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS). This must be done within six months of receiving the insurance provider’s official decision.

The FOS is a free service. They’ll look at your complaint and try to resolve it fairly, first through mediation. If that’s unsuccessful, they’ll begin a formal investigation that will result in an independent but binding decision.

If the FOS sides with you, they have the authority to make your insurance provider apologise and put the situation right. That could mean awarding you compensation for any financial loss you’ve suffered or to recognise the impact of what went wrong.

If the FOS rules against you and you’re still unhappy with the outcome, you can take your case to the small claims court. This should be considered as a last resort, though, because of the potential costs involved.

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 they hope to reach a final decision. They should keep you updated on progress at regular intervals.

What can I do if my car insurance provider is stalling?

In the UK, insurance providers must follow strict timelines when responding to a formal complaint. If your provider hasn’t sent you a formal response letter within eight weeks of receiving your complaint, you can escalate your complaint to the Financial Ombudsman.

How do you complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service?

You can start the complaints process on the FOS website. First, they’ll ask you a few questions to check that they’re able to help. If they can, you’ll need to provide details of your complaint by filling in their online form.

Remember that the FOS can only get involved if you’ve already attempted to resolve the matter following your insurance provider’s formal complaints process.

If you have any questions, you can phone the FOS helpline on 0800 023 4567 between 8am and 5pm Monday to Friday, and 9am and 1pm on Saturday.

Common car insurance complaints

Some of the most common car insurance complaints are around:

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
  • The decision to repair the vehicle instead of writing it off.

Working out who’s responsible for the repair can often be contentious. If your policy states that your insurance provider will arrange any repairs, then they’re responsible for the quality of the repair work carried out.

But the provider isn’t responsible if, under the terms of the policy, they reimburse you for the cost of repairs you arranged yourself.

Low car valuation

If your car has been written off in an accident, you might complain if you believe your car has been undervalued by your insurance provider.

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 they believe you lied or failed to disclose something important when you took out the policy, or if you failed to update your details when your circumstances changed – for example, having 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 your car insurance  provider doesn’t contact you before renewal, you have the right to complain.

At renewal, your car insurance provider should also ask whether your circumstances have changed. If they simply take the payment without checking, you may have grounds for complaint if they later reject a claim based on you failing to disclose certain information.

This is a tricky one, though, because under the terms of your policy you’re normally responsible for informing your insurance provider of any changes to your car or personal circumstances.

Loss of no-claims discount

You might want to challenge your insurance provider if they log you as being ‘at fault’ for an accident that you don’t believe you caused.

But if your insurance provider describes something as a ‘fault’ claim, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you were at fault for the accident. It means that your insurance provider had to pay out to fix the claim and they couldn’t recover their costs from a third party.

Having a fault claim on your record can mean you lose your no-claims discount or your premiums might increase. But you may have grounds for complaint if this wasn’t explained clearly to you or set out in your policy’s terms and conditions.

Frequently asked questions

Can you get cheaper car insurance if you complain?

It depends what your complaint is and whether it’s successful. If your insurance provider or the financial ombudsman agree that 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.

Providers may also offer discounts by way of apology for poor service. But there are no guarantees.

If you’re not happy with your car insurance provider, 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. If you know exactly what you’re covered for – and what you’re not – you can hopefully avoid any nasty shocks and potential disputes further down the line.

Who is the car insurance regulator in the UK?

In the UK, financial firms, including insurance providers, are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Prudential Regulatory Authority (PRA).

The FCA is responsible for regulating how financial firms behave. Under rules set by the FCA, insurance providers must have a procedure in place for resolving disputes with their customers. They must also respond to a complaint within set timescales.

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