Travel abroad has changed “dramatically” over the last 20 years, according to Insurance & Financial Services Ombudsman Karen Stevens – but what hasn’t changed is the fact that things often can and will go wrong.
Stevens has urged overseas travellers to take out travel insurance and to make sure they fully understand the terms, and she says that, often, brokers are instrumental in ensuring that no detail is missed.
“We’d encourage all overseas travellers to have travel insurance, and to understand it,” Stevens said.
“While insurance can now be purchased online, via an agent, or as a credit card perk, it’s important to get hold of the policy and check your cover and your obligations – for example, you need to take care of your belongings and you need to report incidents immediately. When you apply for the insurance, you need to tell your insurer about any pre-existing health condition you know about and, if they accept it, pay an extra premium for it.”
Stevens says that disputes around pre-existing conditions are the most common type of travel insurance complaint, and that they are often completely avoidable. She says some insurers may be willing to cover pre-existing conditions if they are properly disclosed, and if the customer is willing to pay an extra premium for it.
“If a dispute does happen, our overriding jurisdiction is to make a fair and reasonable decision,” Stevens continued. “In an insurance policy where an exclusion applies, it’s understandable that a complainant might often like a better outcome – but when that exclusion is simply not covered by the policy, that’s just the way it goes.
“We often find that complainants simply have a real lack of understanding about the product and service, and have expectations that are not in line with what they’ve got.”
The IFSO scheme currently has approximately 50 insurers within its membership, and works extensively to ensure they encourage clients to be fully informed of their policy limits and disclosure duties.
“We know that non-disclosure can have very serious consequences in this area,” she explained. “We get a lot of complaints against companies who have declined claims, and, in those circumstances, it’s really important for the broker to understand that they are crucial in providing the right information, and in making sure their client understands their obligations to disclose everything.”