SALLY SORTS IT: Pet insurance let me down when my poor old dog died

In March 2021, my dog Remy’s insurance was up for renewal. I have been with The Insurance Emporium for several years without a claim. I noticed the premium had increased significantly to £520 so I checked the summary and it appeared unchanged so I paid it.

Unfortunately, in July 2021, Remy developed a lump on her tail. When I took her in to the vets for a procedure, the difficult decision was made to have her put down.

The vet completed the paperwork and I received £108 from the insurer (its contribution to my bill). I also got an email informing me the policy had been cancelled and that it would forward any refund due to me.

Grief: A reader was landed with a hefty bill when her dog had to be put down after her insurer claimed the animal was too old

I later contacted The Insurance Emporium and queried why I had not received any payout for her death nor a refund for the eight unused months of the policy.

I was then directed to clauses in the policy and reminded of the importance of reading the small print. I was told that as Remy had turned eight, she was no longer covered for death and in that case the insurance wouldn’t include euthanasia either.

I believe the policy wording was deceptive, as it appeared there would be a payout of 50 pc of the purchase price of the pet aged over six.

I was also informed that I would not get a refund because I had made a claim that had been paid out. I would suggest that morally the company has a responsibility to inform customers that they would be better off not making a claim for what amounted to £108 but cancelling the policy and receiving £347 of unused premiums.

Without insurance, I would have paid fees of £464, but I have ended up paying £876 — the annual premium of £520, plus my contribution to the vets’ fees, £356 (£464 minus the £108 insurance payout).

B. M., Penzance, Cornwall.

Sally Hamilton replies: Having lost my two beloved cats within a short space of time during the pandemic, I understand how hard it must have been to have Remy put down. It certainly can be difficult to think straight about an insurance claim in that moment.

But when you came out of the fog of shock, you questioned if you had been treated fairly.

The nub of your problem was Remy had turned eight by the time she died — which meant no death payment would be paid in any circumstances. You would have had to delve deeper into the policy to see this significant exclusion when you renewed.

When you compared your policy to a previous year’s paperwork you found that the main ‘death of a pet’ wording had subtly changed. The earlier version said a claim could be made of ‘up to £1,000 if your pet dies or is put to sleep following an injury, illness or condition; the price paid less 50 pc for pets aged six years or more’.

The 2021 policy differed slightly but as it turns out significantly, stating ‘up to £1,500 if your pet dies or is put to sleep following an injury’. You suggest the removal of the illness element should have been highlighted.

Indeed, I agree the insurer could have warned in plainer language that having reached the age of eight, more exclusions applied to Remy. As it turns out, because of her age, her death would not have been covered even under the older policy. 

Having reluctantly accepted the refusal of your claim, you questioned why the insurer had not suggested you would be better off not claiming and taking the premium refund instead.

The company says it is not permitted to discourage valid claims. I felt The Insurance Emporium’s approach rather too dogmatic so asked it to reconsider its stance. 

And I am pleased to say it agreed and as a gesture of goodwill, and for the loyalty you’ve shown the company over the years, it will refund £304. This represents seven months of premiums, as Remy died during the fifth month of the policy term.

Identity theft fraud has put my mortgage on hold  

In February 2021, I spotted £411 had come out of my Lloyds Bank account as a direct debit from JD Williams. 

I didn’t recognise this transaction and have never used JD Williams, an online and catalogue fashion company.

I contacted JD Williams that day and after some back and forth it opened a fraud investigation, finally concluding a fraudster had used my details to order goods. The company emailed me to say any adverse information linked to my credit file would be removed within 28 days.

This was 13 months ago — but the information is still there. My mortgage provider says my record shows I lived in block of flats in London (I didn’t) and had ordered thousands of pounds of goods without paying.

I contacted credit reference agency Experian, which liaised directly with JD Williams. The latter said it was not willing to remove the adverse details without speaking to me first and Experian closed the file.

JD Williams opened another case but did not remove the data. We are in the process of selling our home and our new mortgage was refused due to this adverse information.

J. S., Bearsted, Kent.

Sally Hamilton replies: I feel badly for you that a catalogue of errors on JD Williams’ part was holding up your move. I asked the firm to arrange for the black mark on your credit file to be erased as a matter of urgency.

It took three weeks for JD Williams to investigate your case but finally it came back to confirm the problem had been resolved — though it offered no explanation as to what had gone wrong.

The company apologised to you directly and offered you redress of £2,000, which you accepted. I wish you well in your new home — when you get there.

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