The Financial Ombudsman Service received more than 32,000 complaints over the course of 2019/20

The number of general insurance complaints received by the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) has fallen by almost a quarter (23%) over the course of 2019/20.

The ombudsman received a total of 32,637 complaints from consumers during the last financial year, down from 42,341 for the previous year.

Nearly a third (33%) of these complaints related to motor insurance policies, with the FOS receiving some 9,690 complaints about motor insurance products. This was, however, still 25% less than the 12,977 complaints received in 2018/19.

The second most-complained about insurance product was buildings insurance, with the ombudsman receiving 4,601 complaints relating to this product, equal to 14% of the overall complaints received, and a reduction of 32% compared to the previous year.

The biggest increase in complaints, however, was in the commercial property insurance sector, with complaints about these products climbing by 88% to 575.

While complaints related to the Covid-19 crisis were yet to filter through to the complaints figures for the 2019/20 financial year, the FOS said its work since the end of March leads it to believe that more cases will be incoming over the course of 2020/21.

And Caroline Wayman, chief ombudsman and chief executive of the FOS, said some businesses still had work to do in order to put “fairness first” when it comes to complaints handling, especially in the new landscape being formed in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

“The fundamentals of good customer service, and good complaint handling, are constant, and the majority of financial businesses know this,” she said. “However, some businesses still need to put fairness first in how they handle customer complaints. A key part of our work in the future will be to proactively prevent complaints, to stop unfairness arising in the first place.

“The unprecedented Covid-19 situation has already given rise to many new and complex questions of fairness when things go wrong in financial arrangements. If customers are unhappy with how a financial business has treated them, they can come to the Financial Ombudsman Service for free, and we will see if we can help.”