Peter Thompson, chief executive of Thompson & Bryan Ltd, responds to our recent article on loss assessors
I have recently been provided with a copy of your article on loss assessors and the Cockermouth flood claims (11 March 2010, page 8).
I note that there is a clamour for the FSA to be involved in the regulation of loss assessors. It is perhaps worth reminding ourselves initially that the FSA already regulates the activities of loss assessors and have done so since 2004.
The response you published from the FSA was very clear. If there were any incidents of customer detriment, they would be pleased to receive information which they would investigate. This reflects their existing regulatory function but also, more importantly, indicates that public awareness of their remit and authority needs to be raised.
I am concerned at the lack of balance in your article insofar as it fails to at least recognise that there are qualified, regulated and authorised loss assessing companies, including our own, that do provide a valuable service to policyholders in the event of a loss. Your article appears to castigate all loss assessors as a result of one individual's comments.
To reiterate, loss assessing is a fully regulated industry that reports to and is subject to the authority of the FSA. Anyone professing to be a loss assessor who does not have FSA authorisation should immediately be reported to the FSA and investigated.
At Thompson & Bryan we pride ourselves in the way we train our staff, support continuous professional development and have good working relationships with loss adjusters and insurers. We have assisted policyholders in this area since 1867, maintaining an excellent reputation throughout, irrespective of FSA or other independent regulation.
At the time of Cockermouth, I had several conversations with the Cumbria Police on the subject of non-registered loss assessors that were operating in the area. Your article effectively raises an age-old problem with rogue traders and profiteers, who seek to exploit ad hoc opportunities for a ‘quick buck’. In Cockermouth, similar issues have been identified in relation to cleaning companies, building contractors, salvage companies and so on, where rogue traders are also a problem, possibly to a much greater degree. To that extent, it may be argued that your article effectively misses its target audience. Those that need to be aware of these issues, most are members of the public, and those trading in our industry are doing so under false pretences.
Unfortunately, such is the lack of awareness of loss assessors in the UK insurance market, as opposed to much of the EU and in the USA, where their involvement is recognised and often paid for by the policy, that a certain degree of direct sales activity is unavoidable.
Over more than 140 years, we have been told innumerable times by satisfied clients, that they had no idea loss assessors existed prior to dealing with us. I feel sure that all reputable companies in our industry will share the view that public awareness, plus industry recognition of the benefits of professional representation for policyholders, will in itself assist in resolving this problem. In our view, it is also high time that the UK insurance market acknowledged that claim preparation fees should form part of the cover provided to policyholders to truly provide the protection they need in the event of a loss. The key here, as with all direct sales, is to verify the credentials of whom you are dealing with at the outset. Policyholders should request sight of the FSA Authorisation number and verify this with the FSA before agreeing to deal with them.
Finally, it is also worth reminding your readers that 'treating customers fairly' is the joint responsibility of all of the claims team, made up of loss assessors, loss adjusters, insurance brokers and insurers, and is not a duty confined to loss assessors, as your article seems to suggest.
Peter A Thompson, chief executive, Thompson & Bryan Ltd