The majority of complaints about wedding insurance claims to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) were upheld according to its latest complaints data.
Covering the period between 1 April 2020 and 31 March 2021, the FOS says it saw a significant uptick in the number of complaints about wedding insurance companies, and 94% of complainants had their case upheld.
This is the highest rate across any other complaints category, and is particularly stark when compared to the overall uphold rate of 31% across all categories.
Here, Which? explains what kind of complaints are being successfully upheld, and what you need to do if you have a complaint against your wedding insurance provider.
Why did the FOS uphold so many complaints?
The FOS says there was a large increase in claims against wedding insurers during 2020-21, with hundreds of people complaining about how their provider handled their claim.
In 94% of cases, the FOS ruled in the customer’s favour, saying: ‘While it’s right insurers consider the policy terms and whether any exclusions apply, we still expect insurers to take into account unprecedented situations, such as the one created by Covid-19, when deciding whether to rely on an exclusion.’
In its own case study, the FOS said it dealt with a couple who had been planning to get married abroad, but their wedding venue cancelled the booking as Covid-19 meant it couldn’t source the staff or goods needed for the event.
However, when they claimed on their wedding insurance, their provider told them the policy only covered ‘certain eventualities’ and the venue being unable to resource the wedding wasn’t one of them. The provider also said that while it did cover cancellations due to outbreaks of diseases, the policy didn’t cover cancellations relating to government actions.
The FOS ruled in favour of the couple in this instance, as it said the insurer’s terms weren’t clear and the cancellation was clearly caused by the outbreak of Covid-19 – a disease outbreak, which its policy covers. The provider was told to pay for the claim, plus 8% interest and provide additional compensation for the additional upset it had caused.
What does this mean for my wedding insurance complaint?
The latest complaints data is potentially good news for those who have had an unsatisfactory outcome with their wedding insurance provider, as the numbers suggest the FOS may rule in your favour if you escalate your complaint.
However, this isn’t guaranteed. When looking at complaints about insurance companies, the FOS will find out the facts from both the customer and the insurance provider, before deciding what is ‘fair and reasonable.’
It also looks at the policy wording, any relevant laws and regulations, industry codes of conduct and best practice, and relevant evidence such as medical reports, photos and applications.
After analysing all of this, the FOS will set out whether or not it thinks the company treated you fairly and why. If it feels you were not treated fairly, it will also set out what needs to be done to put it right.
How and when to complain to the FOS
Before you make a complaint to the FOS, you must first have lodged a complaint with the company you’re unhappy with – in this case, your wedding insurance provider. You must have explained the problem, and how you would like them to set it right.
If you are not happy with their response, or they don’t get back to you, then you can contact the FOS. You must get in touch within six months of receiving the business’s final response to your complaint, along with your personal details, policy details and account of what has happened.
The FOS will contact the business involved and assess what’s happened, before coming to an initial decision.
If you’re unhappy with the FOS’s decision, you can ask for a final decision from one of its ombudsmen. If you’re still unhappy with that, it’s possible to take your complaint case to court.
Note that the process is not a short one. The FOS says insurance claims are currently taking around five months to be allocated to a complaint handler for review, but it could take longer in more complex cases.
How has Covid-19 affected wedding insurance?
Several of the biggest wedding insurers have suspended the sales of new wedding insurance policies – and this has been the case since the start of the first Covid-19 lockdown in March 2020.
We’ve been tracking six of the biggest wedding insurance providers over the past 15 months, and currently, just two are offering new policies – Events Insurance and Wedinsure. Wedinsure has changed all policies from 23 October 2020 onwards to specifically exclude claims arising directly or indirectly from any pandemic or epidemic, including Covid-19.
This leaves those without pre-pandemic policies with very little choice, and possibly no cover should coronavirus cause their wedding to be delayed or cancelled.
What’s more, there have been instances of some wedding insurers not playing by the rules. In August 2020, Which? reported UK General Insurance – which sold policies through Debenhams, WeddingPlan and Dreamsaver – to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) for unfairly denying wedding claims.
CMA guidance for wedding companies
In many cases, wedding insurance companies have encouraged couples to come to their own agreements with the venue and other suppliers in a bid to change dates and arrangements without needing to cancel and make a claim. However, this has not always gone smoothly.
In May 2020, Which? spoke to 25 couples who were struggling to get refunds or suitable new dates when Covid-19 derailed their wedding plans.
In September 2020, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) warned wedding venues against unfair treatment of couples whose weddings had been affected by coronavirus. It also took action against Bijou Weddings Group, which it deemed had not been refunding customers in line with its guidance.
The CMA’s guidance stated that any weddings that had to be cancelled due to a national lockdown would have had their contracts ‘frustrated’, and would therefore be entitled to a refund – including any ‘non-refundable’ deposits and advance payments that are no longer liable to fulfil any more payments.
For weddings that can go ahead, but not as planned, the CMA guidance says you may be entitled to a refund if significant changes have had to be made and formed part of the terms of your contract. This could be the case if, for instance, your contract stated a certain number of guests, which have had to be significantly reduced due to social distancing requirements.
Bear in mind that this guidance is only for businesses, not insurance providers.
If you have a complaint that’s specifically with your wedding insurance provider and have been unable to resolve it with them directly, you can complain to the FOS.