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Car insurance ombudsman

Have a dispute with your car insurance provider? Here’s what you can do about it.

If your car insurance provider hasn’t held up its end of the bargain, then you may have valid grounds for a dispute. Financial service providers, including insurance companies, are required to live up to their obligations in good faith. Naturally, the exact obligations depend on which type of car insurance policy you have.

If you have a car insurance dispute, you can contact the Insurance and Financial Services Ombudsman (IFSO) for a resolution. IFSO is responsible for settling issues between consumers and financial service providers. If you have exhausted all other options, then it might be time to give them a call.

Where to contact IFSO

Phone number: 0800 888 202
Website: www.ifso.nz

What can IFSO do?

The Insurance and Financial Services Ombudsman (IFSO) is an impartial, non-profit organisation that offers dispute resolution to customers having difficulties with a financial service provider. Reputable insurers are IFSO members and they pay membership fees to ensure that IFSO services remain free for consumers.

When you go to the IFSO with a dispute, they will:

  1. Determine whether your car insurer or financial services provider (FSP), acted fairly and promptly to resolve the claim. Familiarise yourself with what to do in the event of an accident to make sure you’ve taken the appropriate steps from the beginning.
  2. Look at which steps the FSP took to expedite repairs and help ease your burdens.
  3. If a cash settlement was offered, IFSO will determine whether it was a fair offer and enough to cover all the repairs.
  4. Decide whether you and the FSP tried to come to a reasonable solution first and whether any excuses given, such as difficulty finding spare parts for repairs, are legitimate.
  5. Determine whether either party is in the right and what kind of compensation is in order.

If they find that you’re in the right, IFSO can make the insurer take certain action including:

  • Paying your claim
  • Paying you a sum of money
  • Forgiving outstanding debt
  • Varying, reinstating or cancelling a contract
  • Repaying, waiving or varying a fee

What can’t IFSO do?

The Insurance and Financial Services Ombudsman (IFSO) cannot:

  • Help with complaints about third party or uninsured losses.
  • Investigate complaints about the award of damages.
  • Decide on matters currently undergoing legal proceedings.
  • Offer assistance if the insurer is not an IFSO member. However, you can safely assume that all legitimate insurers are IFSO members.

What to do before contacting IFSO

Pay special attention to step 4 above and do not contact AFCA until you have first tried to come to an agreement with your insurer. It’s a good idea to use email when trying to resolve an issue as it automatically keeps written records, which may be important later if IFSO needs to make a decision.

  • If you have not tried to settle the issue with your insurer, then IFSO will not help.
  • After you have received a final answer from the insurer, you can make a complaint at any time to the IFSO if you want to pursue the issue. The IFSO Scheme is entirely free for consumers.

What happens after I make a complaint to IFSO?

Generally, you should not make a complaint until you have been through the insurer’s internal dispute resolution process. Doing so streamlines the IFSO’s procedures, and shows that you have made an effort to reach an agreement.

In each stage, an agreement may be reached. If not, the dispute keeps progressing through the stages.

  • Registration: The IFSO will get in touch with you and the insurer, requesting that both of you respond. If you have tried internal dispute resolution, the insurer has 21 days to respond, if not, they have 45 days. During this period, the insurer may offer settlements, or they might otherwise look for ways to resolve the issue before the IFSO steps in.
  • Case management: The dispute will be allocated to a case manager. They will gather information on it and be in touch with both parties. The case manager will try to resolve the issue through negotiation, conciliation or by pointing out the relevant issues that might come into play if the dispute progresses to the decision stage.
  • Decision: Taking into account all relevant factors, situational, legal and otherwise, the caseworker will reach a decision. In complex cases this decision might end up in front of a panel rather than an individual.

You do not have to accept the decision. If you reject it, the insurer is freed from the terms of that decision and is not required to do anything in particular. Your remaining option is then to take your complaint to an alternative dispute resolution process or pursue legal action.

Your insurer does have to accept the decision. As IFSO members they are required to accept it. If you need a car insurance ombudsman to settle a dispute, the IFSO is a clear option available.


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