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Aviva to pay up for admin bungle in power of attorney case

Aviva should pay £500 compensation for the way it handled an investment query that caused stress to a daughter who took power of attorney for her mother.

In the Financial Ombudsman Service ruling, Miss S has power of attorney for her mother and complains Aviva delayed providing information about a bond.

She goes onto argue this led her mother unnecessarily having to pay care-home costs.

Miss S started dealing with her mother’s affairs in June 2017 and sent Aviva the power of attorney so she could gain access to the portfolio bond her mother held with it.

Between August and November 2017 Miss S encountered various problems as she wanted to access the account online and for technical reasons could not.

She also wanted an up-to-date valuation, says that was not provided as there were also issues of poor communication and customer service for which Aviva paid £150 compensation.

In December 2017 Miss S brought her complaint to FOS and explained her mother had been moved into a care-home at the beginning of November.

She said she needed a full valuation of the policy for NHS funding purposes and also needed access to the policy online so that she could take out cash to pay the care-home costs.

A FOS investigator looked into this complaint and she could see Miss S experienced difficulties trying to access the account online and that there had been shortcomings in Aviva’s customer service.

She thought Aviva had dealt with those problems fairly by paying compensation and said Aviva had provided a copy of a valuation letter it said it had sent on 23 November 2017.

However the investigator also said she thought Aviva could have provided that information earlier and if it had then NHS Scotland would have assessed the claim sooner.

Therefore she thought Aviva should reimburse Miss S’s mother for the care-home costs she incurred from 8 November, when she moved into the home, to the date the letter was sent.

Neither Miss S nor Aviva agreed.

Miss S said she had not received the letter and thought Aviva should pay the costs from 8 November to 4 January when she received the written valuation by email.

Aviva did not think it was responsible for any of the costs and said the claim could have been made without physical evidence of the value of the policy.

It pointed out that NHS Scotland had taken six weeks to assess the claim, so confirmation of the value of the policy could have been sent later and doubted the assessment could not be backdated.

As there was no agreement the case was passed onto ombudsman Sue Wrigley who partly upheld the complaint against Aviva.

She says the crux of Miss S’s complaint now is whether Aviva should be held responsible for the care-home costs her mother paid while she was waiting for her claim to be assessed.

Wrigley argues Aviva should not be held responsible for the costs as Miss S’s mother’s other savings were, at the outset, over the funding threshold.

Therefore it is likely she would always have had to cover some of the fees herself and more importantly NHS Scotland told Miss S the policy could be disregarded for funding purposes.

That was because of the type of policy, not its valuation and information about the type of policy was available to Miss S at the outset.

As Miss S had the original papers and could have provided these earlier if NHS Scotland has asked her to, Wrigley says she cannot see how Aviva can fairly be held responsible for the fact that did not happen.

But she adds: “Having said that I do have concerns about the length of time it took Aviva to provide the written valuation. That was clearly unsatisfactory and undoubtedly added to the anxiety and stress Miss S was suffering at a very difficult time.

“I don’t think the compensation Aviva paid adequately reflects that and I’m minded to require it to pay an additional £350 (making the total compensation £500).”

A spokeswoman for Aviva says: “We are aware of the FOS decision and will abide by it.”

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