BBC News
Launch consoleBBC NEWS CHANNEL
Page last updated at 16:53 GMT, Thursday, 29 May 2008 17:53 UK

Have Your Say: Holiday insurance

Stripy flip-flops
Oh, and some stripy flip-flops.... How much information is too much?
If you lose belongings or have them stolen on holiday, insurers routinely ask you to provide as much evidence as possible to prove that you did actually own those items.

That could take the form of receipts, photographs or even the original packaging.

But Money Box has learnt that being too meticulous in the details you provide can, in itself, sometimes arouse suspicion.

Have you had difficulty claiming on a travel insurance policy?

Would you be able to remember enough detail about your belongings to claim for their loss?

Do you think insurers ask for too much information?

Or is it perfectly reasonable for companies to require a high level of proof?

We asked for your comments, a selection of which are below. The debate is now closed.

MOST RECENT COMMENTS:

Unfortunately...most people assume all insurance companies are out to make money so they don't bother
Gemma
I work for an insurance company that provides travel insurance. I am amazed at the amount of people who say they do not have travel insurance when they go on holiday. Do they not realise that insurance covers you for many other things besides baggage or personal possessions? Medical expenses can be very important cover, especially if you are travelling somewhere like the USA where medical treatment can be very expensive. You also have liability cover: if you are held legally responsible for damage or personal injury, your legal costs will be covered. Unfortunately as the general public are so uneducated when it comes to insurance, most people assume all insurance companies are out to make money so they don't bother. If the general public had a better understanding of the insurance industry, this would help. I would also like to point out that Lisa from Essex has committed insurance fraud, which is a crime so I would encourage people NOT to follow her example. You are only pushing insurance premiums up for the innocent policyholders whilst at the same time breaking the law.
Gemma

It is certainly nice to get one over on an insurance company. Following the Asian tsunami I put in a claim for 1,500, using assumptions for the values of small items, but the claim was rejected as I hadn't itemised everything. The insurance company would accept a blanket value for miscellaneous items. So I listed every single item, down to each individual pair of socks and handkerchiefs. I also reappraised my valuations and the claim was now 3,000. With a reduction for wear and tear they paid me 2,000, 500 more than my original claim. I didn't stop laughing.
Kevin

I used to work for a travel insurance company...the gross stupidity I saw from the public beggared belief
Jim
I used to work for a travel insurance company - we'd often throw out any claim where there was no proof of purchase. Our policy wordings were very tough. If you didn't jump through our hoops, we didn't pay. That said, the gross stupidity I saw from the public beggared belief: obviously fraudulent claims, people leaving expensive items unattended or taking thousands of pounds of jewellery on holiday. Most of their behaviour could be described as cretinous. Where your holiday insurance is useful is if you fall ill abroad. I saw repatriation jobs and medical treatments topping 10,000 on a regular basis. That suddenly made the 40 or so quid the policy cost seem very reasonable. In short, I wouldn't go abroad without it but I'd certainly take better care of my items than the vast majority of people.
Jim

Yet AGAIN Insurance companies are trying to weasel out of paying-up using any excuse. If we list our luggage they think it's FRAUD! If we don't have receipts they think it's FRAUD! I don't keep receipts for ALL my property, only expensive items. They accuse customers of exaggerating claims, probably done because they always look for any reason to cut down the claim. The honest majority can't win.
Mike

Insurers should be required to state explicitly in their policies exactly what they would require as evidence of ownership
Lester Mcilwaine
So now we can be denied a legitimate claim for giving too MUCH information? This is just plain ludicrous and smacks of sharp practice and yet another reason to avoid settlement. Seems insurers now want it both ways; give us too little or too much info please. Here's an idea; how about a definition from them of what is "just right"? Travellers are advised to make a list of all items in their luggage specifically for insurance purposes. If being responsible and honest in this way is now a legitimate reason for rejection of a bona fide claim then insurers should be required to state explicitly in their policies exactly what they would require as evidence of ownership in the event of a claim and eliminate all vague text. What is one expected to do in the case of a gift? Something as innocuous as a polo shirt or a silk tie, for example. Do we go to the donor and ask for the purchase receipt, credit card transaction slip and an affidavit that it was gifted to the passenger / claimant? Corporate greed; less value for more money; that's all it is. Cynical & despicable. Travel insurance; why buy it?
Lester Mcilwaine

My insurer refused my claim for piste closure due to industrial action. Their small print stated that only closure due to too much or too little snow was covered. The insurance companies try to avoid paying out by their confusing and long-winded terms and conditions which you have to tick the box as read before obtaining cover ... but who has got the time or inclination to wade through all the small print?
Howard Griffiths

Insurance contracts are subject to "utmost good faith" which means that both parties must ensure the contract fits their needs.
Dr Dave
Insurance contracts are subject to "utmost good faith" which means that both parties must ensure the contract fits their needs. Once in place, the insurer should be obliged to meet their commitments to pay ANY and ALL claims. In my opinion, if they want to impose conditions, or check validity, this should be done BEFORE the contract is agreed, not when a claim is being made. If insurance companies and the insured all met their good faith obligations, the industry would be in a much better place. Acknowledging that some people do cheat and lie, surely it should be up to the insurance company to prove (at their expense) that someone is making a false claim rather than assuming it and forcing stress and anxiety onto the claimant.
Dr Dave

While I was on the London underground on way back from Europe after a business trip, my briefcase containing a laptop was stolen. Someone walked out just as the train started to move! I reported it to the police who provided me with a crime reference number. When I made the claim, Insure and Go wanted receipts or evidence of purchase of the items. Since the contents were purchased a few years back (and I was not expecting them to be stolen!) I did not have any proof of purchase except for those I bought from Heathrow on my way out. This was my first experience of claiming insurance for anything other than car accidents. If this is the outcome of a travel claim, the only reason for travel insurance is for a medical cover. Others are unlikely to be reimbursed anyway.
A Jacob

Well done Lisa, you've just stolen 220 from the insurers, and ultimately all the other customers. Hope you're proud of yourself, perhaps you can give out your bank details and everyone can just send you the money in the first place.
Pete

How many claims are routinely denied as part of normal business process to make people give up and "go away"?
Richard Whittington
I agree insurance companies do everything they can to avoid their liabilities. My father was in the US last year and had a medical emergency. He had 5m of coverage but the insurance company denied his 50,000 claim on a technical phrase in the policy - they argued that we only took one trip on a multiple trip annual policy, despite having bought a multitrip rider on the prior 3 policies! You can appeal, but by the time the ombudsman is reached, the phone calls and stress of the bills has been going on for over a year. There needs to be a change in the law to simplify the wording in these policies so it is black and white, in easily understood language as to what is covered and what you have bought. I think the BBC should do some investigative journalism to see how many claims are routinely denied as part of normal business process to make people give up and "go away".
Richard Whittington

I have never had travel insurance, so I have never had any experience of trying to claim on it. That said, the travel agents are always so very, very, very keen to sell it to you, you know full well it must be a massive profit item for them.
Simon Flory

Some years ago due to a strike by baggage handlers all our luggage was checked-in but never put on a plane home. After some weeks of waiting for our luggage to be delivered to our home as promised by the airline we gave up. A claim was made to our insurers for luggage not returned. The insurers requested photographic evidence as proof of me having worn the shirts I claimed for on holiday. The camera I had used for holiday photographs had been packed, as per advice before checking in, in my suitcase. As I could not produce said photos the insurers rejected my claim. I have never since or will ever again buy rip-off insurance. Cost versus benefit is far too heavily weighed in the insurer's favour.
Alan Carleton

I am an insurance professional and consider the entire industry to be riven with contempt for the policyholder
Andrew
Insurance is a contract of "utmost good faith"; whilst claims fraud is morally and legally wrong, it is an expected loss which is priced into the premium and there is no excuse for the insurance companies to carry on perpetrating it. Yes, you read that correctly; the overwhelming bulk of claims fraud is perpetrated on the policyholder by the insurer, either by seeking to deny liability altogether, by seeking to frustrate and vilify the claimant, or by applying one-sided small print conditions which limit liability and/or seek to break the claim into multiple heads which result in the deduction of more than one excess amounts. Under the Financial Services and Markets Act insurers are legally obliged to treat their customers fairly which must surely include not imposing unfair contract terms, not making unfounded accusations or insinuations of fraud, or by erecting Byzantine bureaucracies to frustrate and impede claimants. I am an insurance professional and consider the entire industry to be riven with contempt for the policyholder and lamely policed by the Ombudsman and the FSA; the ABI, meanwhile, is no more than apologist for the worst excesses of the insurance sector and is best ignored.
Andrew

Travel insurance is a minefield. It is clearly essential to have health cover but other points can be problematic. I had considerable trouble claiming when I changed my plans whilst on holiday in Thailand after flooding and reports of deaths in Chang Mai caused me to stay in Bangkok. I claimed for cancelled flights and extra hotel costs but was told that the insurance didn't cover floods even though the normal insurance rule is to take actions that minimise potential loss. I was told that if I had gone to Chang Mai and fallen ill, this would of course have been covered. Oddly enough I preferred to avoid the floods.
Robin White

Fraud is never acceptable!
Annie, Redhill
I work in travel insurance - to me these comments raise some fundamental issues about the nature of travel insurance. Firstly it is currently grossly under-priced due to the highly competitive market environment, low profit margins lead insurers to seek as one of the earlier comments highlighted "to decline rather than to pay" in order to balance their books. Secondly there is a prevailing negative public perception of insurance companies in general which predisposes the public to the idea that fraud is acceptable. Fraud is never acceptable! Finally that it is way past time we in the industry smartened up our act and redesigned our policy wordings, which have been acknowledged by the Ombudsman to be one of the most complex contracts anyone ever enters into. Travel insurance should better manage the expectations of the traveller and stop purporting to be "comprehensive". It should also stop taking money under false pretences for risks which are for most people already covered elsewhere, which is often the case with personal possessions cover and personal accident benefits.
Annie, Redhill

I have never bought travel insurance and I have saved hundreds of pounds. In over twenty years I have only had to cancel one flight costing 86.
John Daly, London

I submitted a claim for a mobile phone stolen while I was in Copenhagen plus some taxi costs involved in replacing my passport which went at the same time. Police report, taxi receipts were all submitted. When the insurance company started asking for the airline ticket (I was not claiming any air travel costs, and you would think a Copenhagen police report would indicate I was where I said I was) I gave the claim up as too much trouble, which I suspect is just what they wanted.
Rob, Damascus

Why is no one else suspicious of the questions they don't ask?
Nick Sharp-Rees, Maidenhead
Although I have also made one successful claim for lost items during a South American trip, generally, it does seem utterly illogical to run a statistically-organized business model based upon trust and not proof. Insurance companies specifically engineer most policies to ensure their stance can be to claim that the customer has not fully-disclosed details in order to invalidate any subsequent claim, which is why so many modern policies are so cheap! When I get buildings insurance, I now get a written statement from the insurer that they have read and taken a copy of my surveyor's report, so they know as much as I. Why is no one else suspicious of the questions they don't ask? Essentially, if an insurance price looks too good to be true, as with everything else, it probably is!
Nick Sharp-Rees, Maidenhead

I agree: travel insurance is a big rip-off. We had a small claim a few years ago and there was a 12 page contract to decipher. The company just said no all the way - it went between Sydney and London, back and forth. We were buying our first home at the same time, and gave up with the insurance claim. The legal wrangling was too much hassle and we cut our losses but we are cynical and bitter about it. I work as an intensive care nurse, and the plus side of travel insurance is seeing overseas sick patients repatriated with medical flights. Then the company shells out big and it is worth the cost.
Sarah, Adelaide, Australia

My wife left her handbag behind in the toilet at the boarding gate at Stansted Airport. We didn't realise until we were on the plane, and we weren't allowed to go back and look. The airport staff had a look but couldn't find it. We phoned the lost property and reported it to the police when we returned three days later, but they didn't want to know about it. We couldn't get any kind of lost property report from either the airport or the police - they were both totally useless! We lost over 400 worth of stuff. The terms of our travel insurance said we needed to have a written report within 24 hours, but since the airport and police wouldn't even give us any kind of report we had no hope and so gave up trying to make a claim.
Peter, London

The money I have saved in not insuring has covered the cost of all items I have lost so far
David Kitchen, London
I take out travel insurance to cover possible medical expenses only. I go for insurance which doesn't cover belongings where possible. The rise in fraudulent claims has meant that I don't bother contacting the insurer if I loose or have belongings stolen. It's too much hassle and there is a risk you could end up being charged with fraud. The money I have saved in not insuring has covered the cost of all items I have lost so far.
David Kitchen, London

I was delayed, in total, 25 and half hours in returning from Melbourne via Bangkok, Schiphol and into Manchester: 24 hours in Bangkok with faulty undercarriage, and 1.5 hours in Holland with an electrical fault. The travel insurance company refused my claim for compensation as "my return journey was not delayed more than 12 hours". Apparently the legs from Melbourne to Bangkok, and then on to Holland are not return flights! Only the last short leg into Manchester is a return flight according to the small print in the policy!.
F. Peter Edwards, Bury, Lancs

I never buy travel insurance as I consider it as worthless
Graham, Nottingham
I had travel insurance for a trip to South America a few years ago. Around Christmas I was in Brazil and fell ill. A friend tried to ring the insurer, but it was closed for the holiday. The guest house owner was worried and rang for an ambulance, against my wishers. Everything turned out ok. And I wasn't charged at the hospital. Now I never buy travel insurance as I consider it as worthless.
Graham, Nottingham

Seems to be: heads the insurance company wins and tails you lose. If you have the details of what you have lost it is suspicious, so they do not pay. If you do not have the details they won't pay.
John Norwich,

My own experience of 15+ years around the globe, in so-called "safe" and "less safe countries", and of incidents pertinent to travel insurance, lead me not to take any travel insurance for the last FIVE years, not to stop travelling. To me they are a waste of time and money. It is as simple as that.
Hubert, Wien

Looks like a good excuse not to pay out if you ask me
Jess, Chicago, IL
If you are going backpacking the guidebooks all suggest that you make a detailed list of everything you are taking with you, as the chances of having it stolen are pretty high (I know that the Gringo trail in Peru is notorious). How do the insurance companies not know this? Looks like a good excuse not to pay out if you ask me.
Jess, Chicago, IL

What a surprise! Insurance companies taking premiums then using any means, or excuses, to avoid paying out. I've paid insurance for many years without having to claim. The one time recently I did need to I had to chase, and chase, and chase the company over several months. Often I would have to speak with several departments (in various parts of the world!) to make sure the claim was processed. Frankly I find claims by insurance industry spokespersons disingenuous. They are only too happy to take the premium money but ask them to actually provide the service paid for and they run a mile.
Andy Darley, Sheffield

If you've been travelling around for a while with a backpack you'd know every item in it
Chris Arnold, London
My son is travelling in his gap year: Thailand, Australia and South Africa. Before he went we itemised all items and made sure we had receipts for expensive items over 100: camera, jacket, etc. He even spread them all out on the lawn and photographed them. Why? Because we don't trust insurance companies. They look not to pay out rather than to pay out. That's why I think so many people over-claim. If you've been travelling around for a while with a backpack you'd know every item in it, it's your home for 6 months. I guess the pen pushers in those insurance companies have never travelled. They don't understand how different people are and have different behaviours. Hopefully my son won't be a double victim of backpacker crime: first getting his stuff stolen, then getting ripped off by insurance companies.
Chris Arnold, London

A claim for loss of computer due to power surge following a power cut was rejected because the power company says that there was no power cut recorded. It transpires that the first call reporting a power cut is allocated to that postcode. If you, in an adjoining postcode attempt to report the power cut, an automatic message says that they already are aware of problems "in your area". As a consequence, no power cut is recorded in your postcode. Helps electric companies meet targets but doesn't help with you insurance claim!
Roger Nuttall, Cheltenham

I believe travel insurance is just a con
Daniel Batchelor, Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex
I have had two claims rejected on my holiday insurance. The first was when I went to Egypt - my suitcase was torn right open and lots of the clothes were missing. I reported this in the airport and filled out four or five forms. When I returned home and tried to make a claim I was told I needed the receipts for all of the missing clothes. I obviously didn't have these as I don't keep receipts for everything I buy. I was also told I should have reported this to the tour operator and they should have filled out some forms. I thought this was ridiculous as I had all the forms from the airport showing the damage to the case. The second was when I damaged my camera on holiday - my wife dropped it on some rocks and it damaged the touch screen. I was told I couldn't prove this happened on holiday so I couldn't claim. Needless to say I will no longer buy holiday insurance. I have taken over 20 holidays and only tried to claim twice. Both times there have been stupid reasons why the claims have been rejected. I believe travel insurance is just a con.
Daniel Batchelor, Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex

They made it so difficult for me to claim my 30 that they ended up paying out nearly ten times the amount!
Lisa, Essex
A few years ago I bought a white ski suit in a sale for about 30. I managed to get oil on it on a drag lift in France so on my return from holiday phoned the insurance company to make the claim. They informed me that I had to have the receipt or they would not pay out. They sent me the claim form and I tried to find the receipt - no luck. However, my brother-in-law had recently bought a pair of top of the range ski boots for 250 - his receipt merely said "skiwear". So I put that receipt in and the insurance company paid out 250. They made it so difficult for me to claim my 30 that they ended up paying out nearly ten times the amount!
Lisa, Essex

I am livid because I had a claim refused because the bike bag that was damaged (not a cheap piece of kit) was borrowed and not mine. The person I borrowed it from said "fine, I will give it to you" but the insurers wouldn't have it. The fact that I can only claim for my own items is buried in the small print of the travel insurance. I would love to know what is supposed to happen if you borrow something and it is damaged on your holiday. I still have the bike bag but have not been able to afford to replace it nor repair it.
Stacey Eccles, York

Maybe insurers just need more mothering and hugs?
Tony Percy, Cambridge
My problem was with notification of medical treatment. That is the 48 hour period in which you or someone you authorise has to "notify" the insurer. To me notification would be name, policy number and nature of the treatment, and whether the underwriter will have to foot the bill in the first instance, or whether it can be resolved on the return home - a 30 second call. Not a 24 minute call with a medically unqualified second jobber that did not know a simple medical term like "mastoid", and wanted a medical report and a copy of the 56 page policy faxed in the first instance from Mexico before they would consider the claim (while occasionally laughing at what I assume he deemed a "funny" accent.) That fax would have ended up costing more than the medical treatment. As for the example of a youth and mother being able to recall exact details and locations of purchases - seems perfectly reasonable. Time spent shopping with your parents stays with you, especially in preparation for a trip. That insurers would not see this, not sympathise, maybe says more about their childhood and youth. Maybe insurers just need more mothering and hugs?
Tony Percy, Cambridge

People are conning the insurance companies to pay for their holidays
VPS, Birmingham
I think it is essential that insurance companies ask for information. My family have owned a leather shop for many years and it is amazing how many people come in for an insurance receipt for the jacket they lost on their blazing hot summer holiday to Spain or Greece. They always ask them to prove they bought it from them and it is amazing how 99% of them can't produce any such evidence. With the internet now, people have stopped asking as they just print it off the websites to support their false claims. People are conning the insurance companies to pay for their holidays and they are conning the rest of us who pay higher premiums.
VPS, Birmingham

My mother left a very expensive jacket in a taxi which we had taken in Cadiz about 4 years ago. When we were unable to recover it from the taxi company I went to the police station to report the loss (I speak Spanish so no language problem). I was informed there was no way of recording the loss as it was not what they considered a theft. My insurance company refused to pay out as they required a police report, until I wrote to a newspaper and then would only pay half the cost (as a gesture of goodwill). How can one report a loss which is a condition of the policy, if the local police don't consider it a theft and will not record it? I am still cross!
Carole Barratt, Bookham, Surrey

These companies offer insurance so they should honour what they offer
Mark Stevenson, Great Bentley, Colchester
I am a very organised person and if I had to claim for anything within my insurance cover, I would have record of price, receipts, date of purchase, photographs etc. These companies offer insurance so they should honour what they offer. If not they should find another service in life.
Mark Stevenson, Great Bentley, Colchester

I work in home insurance claims. Sounds like the young man did not have a too perfect claim - sounds like he did not have proof of ownership for the expensive items. Policyholders need to provide reasonable proof, if he does not have the receipt does he have a manual or the box the item came in? These are accepted as proof. If he presents all the proof and a full list of the items lost the insurance company can not reject the claim, no matter how perfect it looks! Generally we only reject claims we have real suspicions about.
Linda, Hamilton

If the company are being unreasonable take them to court
Roy Hunt, East Yorkshire
Last year on holiday in New Zealand our hire car was broken into and we lost about 800 of possessions. I was covered by the hire company, but they initially refused to cover the claim because I was also insured with an insurer. The insurer said the same - both had an exclusion in their policy that they wouldn't pay out if I was also insured elsewhere. I resolved this by agreeing with both to split the claim between them. The hire company paid out, but the insurer refused because the hire company would not provide me with a letter I could give to the insurer stating that they were not paying for items I was claiming from the insurer. After weeks of arguing I asked the insurer to write me a letter stating why they would not pay out so that I could take this to the small claims track of the county court. Immediately they settled. Lessons learnt: 1) Make sure you are only covered by one insurance company - apart from the hassle, I still lost two lots of excess on the policy, 2) If the company are being unreasonable take them to court - the process is simple and just the threat will possibly do the trick.
Roy Hunt, East Yorkshire


The comments we publish are not necessarily the views of the BBC but will reflect the balance of views we have received. It is helpful if contributors state if they work for any organisation relevant to an issue discussed. Readers should form their own views on whether messages published represent undeclared interests, or views prompted by a common source.



Money Box


SEARCH MONEY BOX:
 

Podcast

Download or subscribe to this programme's podcast

Podcast Help



SEE ALSO
Insurance claims 'too detailed'
24 May 08 |  Moneybox
Terminal 5 insurance cover cut
15 Apr 08 |  Business
Travel insurance to be regulated
26 Jun 07 |  Business
External links and helplines
23 May 08 |  Moneybox


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

banner watch listen bbc sport Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific