Biba has welcomed the ABI's new code for general insurance claims as a step in the right direction but said more action is needed to satisfy brokers.

The ABI stressed the code, which became operational from January 2001, was not a response to criticism of insurers' handling of last years flood claims.

John Parker, ABI head of general insurance, said the code has two significant features: "This is the first code to apply to both policyholders and third parties and to set minimum standards."

The code sets specific deadlines for the processing and settling of claims and complaints.

Parker added that most insurers and loss adjusters already exceeded the service standards in the published code. But, he admitted that some firms will have to work harder to meet them.

Insurers' claims handling services will be regularly checked against the code's minimum standards to establish benchmark standards.

The first benchmarking exercise will involve insurers in the private motor market.

However, results on individual insurers will not be published but aggregated, while insurers undergoing mergers will be allowed to drop out of the standards exercise.

Biba chief executive Mike Williams said the code was a "step in the right direction".

But he added: "We would like to see some means of checking the claims performance of individual insurers, as well as some kind of sanctions for poor standards."

Parker said the code was voluntary because the ABI is a trade association and not a regulator.

Chris Woodburn, chief executive of the GISC, said the claims code would complement its rulebook and further improve confidence in the insurance industry.

What the code says you can expect

  • When you first make a claim, you can expect a response and action from the insurer within five working days.
  • While your claim is being processed, you can expect replies to your letters within ten working days.
  • Once your claim has been agreed, you can expect payment, repair or replacement within ten working days.
  • If you make a written complaint, you can expect a written acknowledgement within five working days and a final response within 40.