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Your wedding day is often said to be the happiest day of your life. Well it's been a struggle for engaged couples wanting to get married this year.
There are around 250,000 weddings in the UK each year (according to the Office of National Statistics) and most of those are during the summer months. Lockdown and social distancing rules have put paid to too many of those big plans. Couples planning what should be the best day of their lives are now dealing with cancelling plans, communicating with their guests remotely and claiming off their wedding insurance and if a honeymoon was booked, their travel insurance too.
Some were able to simply move their wedding arrangements to next year, others have found service providers are no longer trading or it simply hasn't been possible to move all the arrangements together, so they have had to cancel and start from scratch.
Surely, their insurer would pay out when evidence was given and forms completed?
Itís not always that simple.
Much like those thousands trying to make travel insurance claims they have found it difficult to make contact with their insurer and if they do get through many have been disappointed to find they didn't have cover for cancellation in these circumstances. Like many other policies insurers wrote cover for specific incidences and at that time Covid-19 (or even the threat of a global pandemic) seemed unimaginable. It was the thing of Hollywood Blockbusters.
Whether you are trying to claim for a cancelled holiday or a cancelled wedding, there will be a number of lengthy processes to go through before an insurance claim is even considered. Your insurer will most likely ask you to firstly negotiate with the service provider and try to get a refund or agree a new date. They probably won't even consider a claim unless you have a evidence you have pursued this as far as you can.
Tip number one, negotiate with the supplier in writing. You will need the evidence. Even if they ignore your emails you have to try. For my claim, I also took screenshots of social media posts about the provider going bust and others saying they could not get refunds.
Once you know you can't recover or agree an alternative with the supplier, surely the claim will be accepted?
Well if you paid by card your insurer will probably tell you to go through the card recovery process, although they should only direct you to do this if there is a reasonable chance of success. That's great if you succeed (although it's still a wait - mine took 3 months).
If you cannot get a card refund then you can, at last, make your insurance claim. I wonder how many have even got to this stage. Certainly for most it will be months of waiting. Unable to re-arrange their wedding until they have the funds to do so.
Don't be surprised if your claimants are angry and frustrated by the time they speak to you, they will most likely have been pushed around by a number of organisations telling them someone else can help. You telling them they must be patient as the are busy dealing with an unprecedented workload and don't have enough staff - yes that will go down well if they have just lost their job!
Right now the most important thing is to make it easy for your customers to communicate with you. One simple way is to write/email all your customers who bought wedding insurance, telling them what cover they have for Covid-19 cancellation claims and what they need to do to make a claim.
Although some 8% of the population don't have access to the internet, engaged couples who buy wedding insurance are less likely to be in this group so the internet is key. You need a really clear online portal with information, allowing your customers to easily make and track their claims. This should satisfy most of your claimants, leaving your customer facing staff better able to deal with the small proportion of claimants who need to talk to them.
You should also take account of FCA guidance which says that it expects firms to reduce the risk of consumers being passed between firms, where this is not in the consumerís interest. Essentially, you should not be pushing your claimant back to their card provider (for a Section 75 refund) without explaining why it is necessary (and in their best interest). If the claimant is unlikely to have a valid section 75 claim, they should not be expected to take more than reasonable steps to pursue it.
Finally, don't forget when this is all over to talk to your customers. Ask them what worked and how you can do better. Learn from this experience and be better in the future.
Author: Sally Pearce (Conduct Matters Ltd)
Sally Pearce started Conduct Matters in 2014 after 35 years working in the insurance industry. She was originally an underwriter, but since 2000 has worked in dispute resolution and helping Insurance firms understand how to treat their customers fairly. Her experience includes working for the Financial Ombudsman, in the Lloydís market and dealing with regulators. Sally is ACII, a qualified mediator and yoga teacher. She is also available for public speaking.