Page last updated at 14:01 GMT, Sunday, 29 June 2008 15:01 UK

Travellers warned over insurance

By Joe Lynam
Business reporter, BBC News

James Pinnington
James Pinnington, 19, broke both his legs in a moped crash in Vietnam

British standards are being applied unfairly overseas as a basis for rejecting travel insurance claims, according to a consumer watchdog.

The Consumer Action Group (CAG) wants companies to be clearer with customers when selling travel insurance.

It cites the case of a 19-year-old who crashed a moped in Vietnam but his insurer refused to pay out.

The insurance firm involved said the policy "clearly stated" that the driver must have a full UK motorcycle licence.

The warning from the CAG comes as millions of gap year students and schoolchildren prepare to take their holidays this summer.

James Pinnington
James's father had to pay £25,000 to fly his son home

The group has highlighted the example of gap year student James Pinnington, 19, who crashed his moped in Vietnam in May, breaking both his legs.

Although James had what he thought was comprehensive travel insurance and a full driving licence and was wearing a helmet, his insurer refused to honour the claim because he did not have a full UK Class A motorcycle licence.

Officially any class of UK or international driving licence would not apply in Vietnam and local moped and car users are required to have separate licences, although these laws are not strictly applied in practice.

James's father Chris had to pay £25,000 to transport his son from a remote village in Vietnam to London via Bangkok.

Insurance companies pay out when genuine claims are made
Malcolm Tarling, ABI

The policy, which was purchased from Boots Gap Year Travel Insurance, stipulates that a full UK motorcycle licence would be required on page 13 of a 64 page document containing all the terms and conditions.

However, the Consumer Action Group said this condition should have been contained in the "Key Facts" booklet.

“We consider that it was unwise and probably unfair that this important requirement was omitted from the ‘Key Facts' booklet (in the terms and conditions) and we believe that Mr Pinnington may have suffered as a result,” according to Marc Gander from the CAG.

“We consider that the provision of a "Key Facts" booklet and then the omission of important key facts amounts to a misinformation.”

850,000 claims

In a statement, Boots said: "Our Gap Year Insurance policy wording clearly states that a claim will not be paid 'arising from using a two-wheeled motor vehicle as a driver or passenger if you are not wearing a crash helmet and the driver is not a holder of a full UK category A motorcycle licence'."

Last year more than 20 million people took out some form of travel insurance in Britain - of which just over 4% (850,000) claims were made. The Association of British Insurers denies using "small print" to avoid paying claims.

"Insurance companies pay out when genuine claims are made," according to Malcolm Tarling from the ABI. “We don't look at ways not to pay. 

"The last thing we want is to leave people high and dry with medical injuries.  Last year we paid out £200m for people who fell ill overseas. 

"The key thing to do is avoid getting into difficulties is to read the Terms and Conditions.  If you are unclear, talk to your insurance company or broker.” 

Warning about medical cover rules
19 Dec 07 |  Business
Claims for lost luggage 'soaring'
16 Aug 07 |  Business

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific