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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 June, 2004, 12:19 GMT 13:19 UK
Endowment time-bars
By Paul Cooper of CLAIMS

If you would like to complain about the way that you were sold your endowment policy, but do not know if you are time-barred, this guide by Paul Cooper of CLAIMS, may help you.

Please note that CLAIMS is a commercial fee-charging enterprise set up to assist people with endowment mis-selling claims and is not in any way linked to the BBC.

The time-barring lists have been produced by CLAIMS alone and the BBC can accept no responsibility for their accuracy or otherwise.

People are advised to always check for the latest situation with the firms, organisations and experts working in the field of endowments.

When might your complaint be time-barred?

There are two sorts of time-bars.

1. The six month time-bar of not taking a complaint to the Financial Ombudsman (FOS) within six months of a rejection letter.

If you complained to the firm and it rejected your complaint, the firm's rejection letter should have said that you could take your complaint to the FOS, provided you did it within six months of the rejection letter.

If you were not told that, the firm cannot time bar you.

If you were told that, you are probably too late to take the complaint to the FOS.

However, on a few rare occasions CLAIMS has persuaded firms to re-open their investigations by lodging a new and different complaint or demonstrating that their rejection letter was negligent.

2. The three year time bar (sometimes with an additional six months) from the date of your first red letter.

By law people have six years from the date the policy was sold, which is usually in the distant past, or three years from the date of knowledge that they could make a complaint, which can be quite recent.

But the Financial Services Authority (FSA) believes that if an endowment policy-holder received a "red letter" saying there was a high probability that their endowment would not hit its target, "knowledge" starts from that date.

Since many people got their first red letter in 2000, this may have time-barred complaints about these sales.

About two years ago, the FSA brought in a new rule saying people had six months from the date of their second red letter, and on 1 June 2004 the FSA changed the rules again, so the position is complex.

Some red letters told customers they could "wait and see" which prevents time-barring.

Also many companies have agreed not to use the three year time-bar.

Some companies are changing their stance but as of 21 June 2004, the list below tells you which companies, according to CLAIMS research, are invoking the "three-year rule" to time-bar complaints, and which are not.

Companies which do not time-bar

Allied Dunbar (now Zurich)
Black Horse Life
CGU (now Norwich Union)
Eagle Star (now Zurich)
English Insurance Co (now Norwich Union)
General Accident (now Norwich Union)
Hambro Life (now Zurich)
Legal & General
Lloyds TSB
Midland Bank (now called HSBC)
Norwich Union
Provident Mutual (now Norwich Union)
Refuge (now Royal London)
Royal London
Scottish Amicable (now Prudential)
Scottish Life (now Royal London)
Standard Life
St James Place
Scottish Widows (now Lloyds TSB)
Sun Life now Axa
United Friendly (now Royal London)
Woolwich (now Barclays)

Companies which do time-bar

Abbey Life (now Lloyds TSB)
Abbey (formally Abbey National)
Abbey National Life
Alba Life Ltd
Britannia Life Assurance (now Alba Life)
Britannia Life Ltd (now Alba Life)
Clerical Medical
Colonial Mutual (now Winterthur)
Crusader Insurance Co Ltd (now Alba Life)
Crusader Insurance Public Ltd Co (now Alba Life)
Friends Provident
General Portfolio (now Windsor Life)
Hambro Guardian (now Countrywide)
Laurentian Life (now Lincoln)
Lloyds Life (now Royal Sun Alliance)
NatWest (now Royal Bank of Scotland)
Reliance Mutual
Royal Bank of Scotland
Royal Sun Alliance
Scottish Mutual
Scottish Provident
Sun Alliance (now Royal Sun Alliance)
Trident Life (now Lincoln)
Windsor Life

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