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This is one place you won't find World First

01 June 2010 11:06

This is one place you won't find World First

TV programme takes a close look at insurers

The heat was on our industry this week. On Thursday 20th May the BBC's Watchdog programme looked at three cases where unfortunate travellers had claims refused in difficult circumstances. The companies involved were scrutinised under the magnifying glass of The BBC's flagship consumer rights programme - in the full glare of the sun. It’s somewhere you’ll never find World First.

What this programme highlighted is the need to choose carefully when it comes to buying travel insurance. Sometimes doing a search on Google may not yield the best results. Just because a company does well in internet searches or sounds good online isn’t a measure of how good they are. Would you trust a company that doesn't care enough about customer service to have telephone support and instead conducts all its business online?

Small print: to read or not to read?

Unfortunately choosing carefully can also mean reading the small print – because that's where the exceptions will be. We agree that underwriters spend too much time on the small print (though at World First everything in our Policy Wording is the same size) and make things look over complicated, but good insurers will always spell out a policy's limitations and cover in the 'Key Facts' document. This is a short summary of the key points. Everything you need to know should be on there – and there's no reason why you shouldn't take a few minutes to make sure that the policy is right for you – limitations and all.

What a Saga!

In the Watchdog programme Saga Travel Insurance had a grilling because they refused to pay out on a claim. Their refusal was based on something that happened many years ago yet was totally unrelated to the death of the claimant's father. To their credit Saga apologised, promised to retrain staff and paid up but we ask ourselves if they would have been so compliant if the BBC had not got involved. Here at World First we have only had one complaint in the last 5 years where the Financial Ombudsman Service (an independent body to help clients with complaints) got involved. We take our customer service very seriously.

Trouble in the skies? Or not.

The recent volcanic ash situation has had a polarizing effect on our industry, simply because it has not happened before. Some insurers refused to cover anything related to the ash problem and continue to do so. Some insurers cannot agree what "volcanic ash" is. An act of God? A weather event? As far as we're concerned it's pretty straightforward. Either it's a 'new event' or it isn't. The same goes for strikes. If it's a new event then you're covered. Our article about the volcanic ash crisis and travel insurance is pretty clear about our stance.

The mark of good travel insurance

Interestingly none of the companies mentioned in the Watchdog report were members of the Association of Travel Insurance Intermediaries. We are. And that's because we think it's vital that we do everything to look after our customers as best we can. Belonging to an industry recognised association and meeting 4 or 5 times a year enables us to continually improve our customer service standards.

Our complaints handling procedure

Any complaints that we receive are handled personally by Martin Rothwell, our Managing Partner. Part of his remit is customer care and he takes a keen interest in making sure that all our customers are treated fairly. If he is unhappy with any aspect of a claim he speaks to underwriters on his client’s behalf, often overturning decisions and influencing insurers to be more reasonable if they have made a poor judgement. Any learnings, as you'd expect, go towards making sure that similar complaints never happen again.