From Twitter to AngryPolicyholders.com. How a refused insurance claim changed the UK protection insurance industry for millions of manual workers
The Angry Policyholder persona was was created in January 2010, to fight insurance giant Scottish Provident following their decision to refuse a payout on a genuine income protection claim.
The policy was taken out in 2005 at the request of a bank to satisfy lending criteria on a business loan and to help protect the income of our founder, Christopher Hargreaves. As is the case with all types of protection insurance it was never taken out with the intention of a claim being made, but was there as a piece of mind in the unfortunate event Chris was unable to work through sickness or an accident.
However, Christopher was serious ill in 2009, which resulted in admission to three hospitals for a concurrent three months. Even on discharge Christopher was still suffering from medical complications and was routinely admitted in an emergency situation – the first occasion being two days after first being discharged.
What followed was a ‘high-profile’ social media campaign by Christopher to try to highlight his situation and the fact that a policy which is sold under the pretext of protecting your income wouldn’t even pay out if you were seriously ill, bed-bound in hospital or unable to do any form of work.
The campaign highlighted the difference in definitions used by insurers when selling protection insurance. Unfortunately Christopher had been persuaded to purchase a policy based not on his inability to do his own occupation, but his ability or inability to do a set number of tasks.
These tasks used by insurers usually consisted of between 6-8, with the policyholder having to be unable to do 2-3 of the set tasks for a payout. Some of these tasks included being able to walk 200 metres on a flat surface without stopping or being in pain, holding a pen in either hand or to read 16 point print all with the assistance of others or aids.
Having used Twitter under the persona ScotProvSaysNo and Angry Policyholder, Christopher quickly gained support from industry experts and the public. It took a considerable amount of time and effort before the national press and media picked up on the campaign and the serious implications these definitions had for consumers.
The Times newspaper first broke the story when head consumer troubleshooter, Laura Whateley ran a number of stories about Christopher and his wife Nicola and their continued fight for a payout and for insurers to stop selling policies based on these “useless” definitions.
Even with the might of The Times, Scottish Provident stuck to their guns and refused point blank to back down. The next big break was the industry publication The FTAdviser.com who ran multiple articles on the case which helped bring in further support from the industry and other publications, including Cover Magazine.
As pressure mounted Aviva broke ranks and declared it would offer 95 per cent of all new policies on an own occupation basis and promised to proactively look at making all their income protection policies own occupation. Like sheep all the industry followed suit making the same promises to rid these valuable policies of definitions which were not in the interest of consumers or for that matter, insurance companies.
However, not all insurance companies had to make this promise because they never sold income protection without an own or suited occupation defintition. Some of these insurers went on reord to say: ‘when we have a claim we want to pay, not fight over whether a policyholder can hold pen.’
But for all these promises Christopher and his wife Nicola were still suffering from serious financial hardship as they were still unable to get a payout. The Financial Ombudsman Service ruled in their favour, but Scottish Provident appealed the decision, taking the case all the way to an ombudsman for a final ruling.
The ombudsman ruling was upheld in favour of Christopher and Scottish Provident were forced to pay the original claim plus interest two-and-a-half years after he was hospitalized. The adjudicator and ombudsman were critical of Scottish Provident refusal of the claim and the manner in which it was handled.
Thanks to the support Christopher and Nicola received from the public, industry and the media they gained valuable experience fighting both Scottish Provident and the UK insurance industry. Having personally experience what it is like to fight when everything seems to be against you they wanted to be able to help others in the same situation.
Already they had been approached by other consumers desperate for help after being let down by an insurer or financial institution which led to the decision to use this experience and knowledge, resulting in AngryPolicyholders.com.
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Angry Policyholders featured on the BBC, Rip Off Britain
Chris Hargreaves featured on the BBC consumer TV show, Rip Of Britain in September 2012. The show highlighted Chris’s two-and-a-half-year fight against Scottish Provident after he was refused a payout on his income protection claim.
The decision to refuse the claim left both Chris and his wife, Nicola in financial hardship and also affected Chris’s health and recovery. Having refused the claim Scottish Provident opened a ‘can of worms’ as Chris started a Twitter campaign to not only overturn his own claim, but started a one-man campaign against the whole UK insurance industry to stop the sale of the “useless” definitions used in his policy – activities of daily living (ADL’s).
Chris Hargreaves has become a people’s champion by taking on the might of the insurance industry
His achievement? He has stood up to the might of the insurance industry and as a result is prompting change that is likely to transform income protection into the essential protection benefit it should be. IP could go mainstream with a potential market of at least 20m people in Britain.
Chris’s campaign has also been one of the catalysts behind the drafting of a ‘charter’ by the Income Protection Task Force, co-chaired by two of the country’s leading protection insurance experts, Peter Le Beau and Clive Waller.
Unless someone else extraordinary comes along, this unassuming man will be my personal finance ‘person of the year’
Jeff Prestridge is personal finance editor of the Mail on Sunday. Jeff also writes on a wide-range of subjects as a columnist for a number of leading publications, specifically financial trade websites and magazines.
A dedicated investigative journalist and consumer champion
His dedication and 'never give up' attitude towards cases, no matter how complex is to be admired. Chris has an enviable approach to working with sources and whistleblowers, with the ability to build trust quickly.
His ability to work with government agencies, police forces and councils is a result of the 'compelling' evidence he is able to obtain in respect to cases. Working closely with not only his own team, but also interested third parties shows how quickly Chris has gained credibility as an investigative journalist.
People outside his ongoing cases may not have yet heard of Chris as a investigative journalist, but I am sure when the time comes for his cases to be published he will leave a lasting impression. It has been a privilege to have worked with Chris and my team at Licensed Transport Uncovered, and long may it continue.
The Secret Squirrel is the head of Intelligence and Investigations at LicensedTransportUncovered.com, which specialises in the passenger transport industry.
With a career in intelligence and specialised investigations, The Squirrel is dedicated to uncovering the truth about the passenger transport industry.
Chris improved the policy definitions for IP policies, in particular improving, if not completely scrapping, the ‘Work Tasks’ definition of incapacity
Incensed with their decision he took his claim to the Ombudsman, where it was overturned, and has since campaigned to improve the policy definitions for IP policies, in particular improving, if not completely scrapping, the ‘Work Tasks’ definition of incapacity.
His story, which FTAdviser reported first all the back in November 2011, has also been followed up by numerous TV programs and covered by a range of national newspapers. At the time of writing he has 12,000 followers on Twitter and various trade publications and organisations have supported his call to improve policy definitions – with many insurers changing their terms as a result.
Kevin Carr, founder of carrcandc.co.uk (Carr Consulting and Communications), has been in the financial services industry for over twenty years. A leading UK expert in the protection insurance industry who writes regularly in leading industry publications.
Without your help I really don’t think I would have survived this
It just seemed our insurer had the Ombudsman on their side and it didn't matter what I said or what the hospital and doctors said or the endless amount of evidence they supplied them with about our dire situation.
Thank you for your help fighting our case and putting us in touch with legal representation.
A protection policyholder whose substantial claim was refused, resulting in significant delays on the case being settled.
The case was admittedly complex, but should never have been refused. The policyholder ended up receiving a substantial payout in excess of their original claim.
He did more with his onslaught on Scot Prov than we could ever have achieved
Almost three years ago, Chris Hargreaves, winner of a Financial Ombudsman Service case against Scottish Provident over an ADL clause in his protection policy, launched an e-petition on HM Treasury to ban “fluffy definitions” in protection insurance policies.
In the past, lots of insurers and advisers went down the ADL route but that has now changed. One of the big instigators for change was Chris Hargreaves. He did more with his onslaught on Scot Prov than we could ever have achieved. Own-occupation is the only way forward.
Alan Lakey, founded CiExpert.co.uk and has been a financial adviser for over 30 years, with a reputation in the industry for championing things that he feels strongly about.
Budget bombshell came too late for my friend until The APH Team contacted LV=
contacted me for more details.
Chris, from the website offered to help and said he’d ring LV on our behalf. A few hours later my friend was telephoned by LV= to say that they were willing to cancel Christine’s policy and return her money! We were over the moon! We are so grateful that LV= has given Christine the chance of a brighter, less stressful future with the knowledge that from next year she will be mortgage free!
We’re very aware that they needn’t have done this. They’ve also had their business turned upside down post budget. So we thank them very much for their goodwill gesture. We also say a huge thank to Angry Policyholders for their help and support
Sandra who cares for her friend Christine, contacted AngryPolicyholders.com after Christine was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Read full story here....