If you’re unhappy with anything to do with your car insurance, you should take the complaint to your insurer first.
If you don’t think their response is satisfactory, you could take your complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service. It's committed to resolving disputes in a fair and impartial way.
Although the majority of drivers don't officially complain about their car insurance, the UK car insurance ombudsman still deals with thousands of complaints every year.
Where to start with car insurance complaints
The car insurance claim dispute process has several steps you should follow:
1. Call your insurer
The first step is to complain to your car insurance company directly by phone or email. Often, disputes with your insurer might be sorted without needing to escalate any further. This could save you a lot of time and hassle.
Most insurance companies record their calls, so keep a note of the date and time you called, as well as who you spoke to. This could help should you need to take the matter to the Ombudsman.
2. Write a letter of complaint
If calling them doesn't resolve the complaint, you could write a letter of complaint to the insurance company. Most insurers should have a formal complaints procedure they must follow. Make it clear in your letter that you're making a formal complaint and give evidence to support it.
3. Contact the car insurance ombudsman
If the insurance company doesn’t resolve your complaint or claim to your satisfaction, the final step is to go to the car insurance ombudsman. The ombudsman looks at the evidence available and makes a final decision.
How to complain about your insurance company to the Financial Ombudsman
You can also contact the ombudsman about an existing complaint by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
In 2021/22, the Financial Ombudsman had 9,310 new car or motorbike insurance complaints, making it the most complained-about insurance product.
When to make a complaint to the car insurance ombudsman
You should give the insurer a chance to sort the issue out first. The insurer must usually respond to your complaint within 8 weeks.
If you’re still unhappy, you could take the complaint to the ombudsman. But you must do this within 6 months of receiving the insurer’s final response.
What are my options if I'm not happy with the ombudsman's decision?
The ombudsman’s decision is final and, if accepted by the consumer, should also be legally binding on both the insurer and the consumer.
Because the decisions are final, they can't be reviewed by another ombudsman.
As a public body, the ombudsman could be judicially reviewed by the courts. This would generally focus on the way the ombudsman arrived at its decision, rather than the facts and merits of the case itself.
Using a small claims court
If you're unhappy with the decision the ombudsman has made, you could take the matter to small claims court. You can use the GOV.UK tool to find a court.
But this tends to be expensive, as there are additional legal costs.
Whereas the Financial Ombudsman's decision is based on the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)'s regulations, a court would likely only look at whether any laws were broken.
Think carefully before you go down this route - and seek independent legal advice before you take any action.
Common car insurance complaints
Here are some common complaints made to the Financial Ombudsman:
Car repair complaints
Many of the complaints sent are from customers who are unhappy with how their insurer has dealt with repairing a vehicle after an accident.
Complaints typically include:
- Delays to repairs
- The quality of the work carried out
- Further damage caused during repair
- Lack of a courtesy vehicle
- The decision to repair instead of writing-off the vehicle
Generally, if your policy says the insurer will arrange the repair, then they should be responsible for the quality of the work.
But if your policy simply offers to reimburse you for the cost of the repair and you arrange that repair, then the insurer isn't responsible if the work isn't up to the right standard.
So, it’s important to read through the your policy document and ensure you're familiar with who's responsible for carrying out repairs.
When you’re comparing car insurance quotes from different insurers, you should check how long they guarantee repairs for.
Car valuation complaints
The ombudsman says most complaints in this area involve disagreements about the market value of the vehicle. That's the price a car would’ve sold for through just before it was damaged or stolen.
In cases where the car has been deemed a a write off, many drivers wrongly believe that they can claim the amount their car was originally worth.
If the ombudsman believes the customer has lost money due to the insurer’s mistake, then it’s up to the insurer to put things right.
If they think the insurer’s valuation is unfair, they usually tell them to increase it and add 8% interest to the adjusted figures.
If you think your insurer has provided a low-valuation offer, you could challenge it.
Misrepresentation and ‘non-disclosure'
Sometimes an insurer may refuse to pay out on a claim because it says the owner misrepresented information or failed to disclose something important.
The ombudsman states:
“We see cases where consumers don’t disclose a modification made to their car – something which might affect the car’s risk profile, as well as the premium the insurer would have asked for had it known about the alteration.
We also see cases where consumers have changed their car mid-way through the policy term but don’t update their insurer.”
Complaints in this area frequently happen because customers say they didn’t misrepresent anything. People might think their insurer has treated them unfairly by either not meeting their claim or by altering the terms of their policy.
It’s then up to the ombudsman to decide if the insurer acted fairly when they decided there’d been a misrepresentation.
If a customer says they’ve been treated unfairly, the ombudsman may consider the insurer’s obligations under The Consumer Insurance Disclosure and Representations Act 2012.
If you’re unsure about any questions the insurer asks you before you buy the policy, including what constitutes a modification, let them know that you need more information. You should also make a note of the conversation.
Complaints regarding problems at renewal
Sometimes an insurer may want to reject an insurance claim because a customer failed to disclose important information at their car insurance renewal.
If so, the insurer should be able to show that it asked the customer clear questions when they renewed the policy.
But you're normally responsible for telling the insurer about a change to your circumstances.
The policy documents given to you when you bought your cover should explain what you should tell your insurer and when. Like a driving conviction, for example.
If you don’t let an insurer know about changes like this, you might find that any future claim you make on a policy is refused.
Complaints about fault claims and no-claims bonus
A 'fault claim’ is any claim where the insurer has paid out to the policyholder or to a third party but hasn’t been able to recoup the costs.
It doesn’t have anything to do with who was to blame in an accident that led to a claim. It's just based on whether the losses can be recovered.
But having one of these on your record could mean you lose your no-claims bonus and face higher insurance costs.
Many customers contact the car insurance ombudsman because they’re confused about why a fault claim has been put on their records when an accident wasn't their fault. The ombudsman says:
“They’re usually unhappy because they’ve lost their no-claims bonus or no-claims discount, or because their premiums have increased".
Because no-claims bonuses and the way they are applied varies between insurers, every case has to be considered individually.
Sometimes motorists think they have a certain amount of no-claims bonus but when they move to another insurance company, it turns out to be less than they thought.
Check with your insurer to find out how they look at named driver no-claims bonuses before you shop around for a new deal.
When there’s been a misunderstanding or confusion about fault claims and no-claims bonuses, the ombudsman looks at the policy terms. They think about how the insurer highlighted this information to the customer when the policy was sold.
The ombudsman may also look at whether the sales process was unclear and how this may have affected the customer.