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ABI and FOS tackle non-disclosure

The Association of British Insurers and the Financial Ombudsman Service have re-launched their joint non-disclosure guidance paper as a code of conduct.

The joint paper, originally launched in January last year, is to be transformed into a binding code for its 400 members from this week.

ABI spokeswoman Kelly Ostler-Coyle says the move is to let people know “once and for all that this isn’t optional, it is a code, it’s mandatory”.

She says: “One year on, and the referral figures to the FOS have dramatically dropped since the guidance has been in place. Before it was seen as optional, which it isn’t, it never has been and all our members are using what is now the code.”

Official figures show that the number of non-disclosure complaints to the Ombudsman have declined quarter-on-quarter in 2008. Quarter 1 recorded 85 complaints, Q2 saw that figure drop to 78, Q3 to 48 complaints and Q4 expects 32 complaints.

Ombudsman Melissa Collett says the move means it is binding on members as opposed to merely guidance. However, she says: “The interesting thing is that there has been very few changes, if any. The guidance has stood the test off time over the past year without needing any amendment.”
Collett says the FOS is now working closely with the ABI on “a number of different topics”. She says: “The non-disclosure is a success story that we are going to repeat again.”

In other news, Munich Re’s chief underwriter Paul Gyseman is trumpeting new health screening methods as the next big thing to help drive the protection market forward.
Gyseman says saliva swabs, hair samples and urine tests will replace GPRs and blood tests as part of the underwriting process in 2009, putting business on risk in less than 10 days.

Consumers who opt for a mini health screen can take the test or tests at their local chemists, place of work or home, which makes it a “non-vasive process”, says Gyseman. The information obtained from the screening is automatically uploaded using the chemist’s software, which then filters straight into the insurance companies underwriting system.
According to Gyseman, several hundred pharmacies already have these facilities in place, and a handful of providers are piloting the method, including Axa.

For the past year Axa has been working with Gemini Pharmacy in a pilot to see if customers find it easier to visit their pharmacy rather than their doctor or nurse. So far the results have been “very positive”, says Axa’s chief underwriter Mike Taylor.

Taylor says: “We’ve been using mouth swabs to test for HIV and cotinine. These swab tests provide instant results so a decision can be made straight away, cutting down the turn around times by two to three days in comparison to traditional blood tests.”

Axa, which is using digi-pens to record medical tests, is now looking to expand its non-evasive testing to include lifestyle screening and oral mucosaensure, which detects what is in a client’s blood within minutes.

Gyseman says: “If you ask me in five years time, I think this is going to be a normal chain of events and what it will do is give choice to the life assured.”

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