Delay in settling death claims and mis-selling policy form the highest number of complaints filed against insurance companies by consumers. Vinay Sah, Bima Lokpal (Insurance Ombudsman), while speaking to The Indian Express agreed that awareness about his office was low despite it being a cost and time effective mechanism.
The office of the insurance ombudsman is mandated to redress complaints related to insurance companies. A quasi-judicial body, the ombudsman has the power to hear complaints against life as well as non-life insurance companies.
To date, there are 17 offices of the insurance ombudsman in Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Bhopal, Bhubaneswar, Chandigarh, Chennai, Delhi, Ernakulam, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Kolkata, Lucknow, Mumbai, Noida, Patna and Pune. The insurance ombudsman resolves complaints against life, general and health insurance companies and does not charge any fee. The Pune office has jurisdiction across Maharashtra barring Mumbai.
Executive Council of Insurers (ECOI), formerly Governing Body of Insurance Council (GBIC), has been established for providing administrative support to the offices of insurance ombudsman.
Sah said between April and October, his office had received 480 complaints, out of which 200 pertained to life insurance while the rest were related to general and health insurance. “The Covid-19 pandemic has taken a toll; in 2019-20, my office received 1,450 complaints,” he said.
While the services of this ombudsman remain free and the office is mandated to resolve complaints within 50 days of being filed, awareness remains low. “The consumer has the dual benefit of approaching us and, if they are not satisfied, they can go to the consumer court while companies can only approach the high court for quashing my order,” he said. During the Covid-19 lockdown, the hearings were conducted online by the ombudsman. The Pune bench was vacant for a long time, which has resulted in a large number of pending complaints.
Talking about the nature of complaints, Sah said around 40 per cent complaints in the life sector were against public insurance companies, while the rest were against private companies. Complaints were evenly spread out between public and private insurance companies when it came to general and health insurance, he added.
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