Travel insurance claims process criticised

Beach in Ibiza
Image caption Saga travel insurance requires your bank account and credit card details in order to process any claim

A leading travel insurer has been criticised for asking for customers' bank account and credit card details when they make any claim.

Saga said it seeks a contribution if a client has overlapping insurance with another provider.

The company said it was common industry practice.

But Steve Howard, secretary of the Association of Travel Insurance Intermediaries, said he would refuse to give such information.

Holiday Loss

David Jones recently returned from a holiday in South Africa. While there, his wife lost her glasses and so they decided to claim on their travel insurance.

He phoned Saga, the firm providing it, thinking it would be a straightforward process. But when he got the claim form through, he was shocked.

"I was enraged to be asked for details of my bank account, details of how I had paid for my holiday and my home insurance provider," he told Radio 4's Money Box programme.

"The bottom line is that I paid my premium to Saga and I expect them to deal with it, not dig around trying to extract cash from third parties."

David's policy already had a £50 excess, and he believed the cost of replacing his wife's glasses would be a maximum of £200.

So he could not believe he would have to provide Saga with his bank account, credit card and home insurance details to get a maximum pay out of £150.

Insurance agreements

But Saga responded by saying it was "normal practice for insurers when paying a claim to see if they can recover part of the cost from third party insurers. There are industry agreements in place which mean that obtaining a contribution from other insurers should not affect the customer's premiums with those other insurers.

"Also, seeking a contribution from another insurer does not delay settlement of a claim - in Saga's case the average turnaround is five days after receipt of the claim form and supporting documentation.

"About one in 40 travel insurance claims have a third party contribution averaging £800, [and] this is factored into the pricing of our travel insurance, which helps lower the price for all insured travellers."

Other insurers confirmed that, in certain circumstances, they may decide to recover some costs under something called the Personal Effects Contribution Agreement (PECA), which affects claims of over £150.

But Money Box spoke to five leading travel insurers, and none of them said they were asking customers to write down their bank account and credit card details on their claims forms.

Steve Howard, secretary of the Association of Travel Insurance Intermediaries, said he would refuse to write them down: " I wouldn't give them to the insurers because they don't need them. They're irrelevant."

And he said under the PECA, Saga would not have contacted other firms to ask for a contribution for David's claim anyway: "This gentleman's claim is for £150 when you take off the policy excess. Under this agreement this claim would not be subject for a claim from another insurer."

Claims consequences

David was not aware of this and as well as being reluctant to write down his bank details, he was also worried that his future premiums with other insurers could also potentially be affected by his travel insurer alerting them that he had had suffered a loss. The PECA says that no-claims bonuses should not be affected.

But Malcolm Tarling, from the Association of British Insurers, admitted it was up to individual insurers to decide whether, having reported a loss, you are considered to be more likely to make a future claim: "That could have an impact but the insurers that I have spoken to have all said that if they make a contribution under this agreement, then it certainly won't impact on the no-claims bonus.

"It's unlikely to impact on other aspects of the premium, but I can't give a 100% guarantee."

Most travel insurers Money Box spoke to admitted they did not ask whether a customer already had some cover under an existing home insurance or other policy when they sold their policies. But the Association of British Insurers said, in some cases, customers may be offered lower travel insurance premiums if cover that would be duplicated can be stripped out of a policy.

Money Box is broadcast on Saturdays at 12:00 GMT on BBC Radio 4 and repeated on Sundays at 21:00 BST.

You can listen again via the BBC iPlayer or by downloading Money Box podcast.

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