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Gap Year Insurance Warning

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Press release

GAP YEAR INSURANCE WARNING

Tuesday 3rd August, 2010

 

With over 250,000 young people this year embarking on gap year travel, students and their parents are warned to check for small print in travel insurance policies following an important ruling by the Financial Ombudsman. The travel insurance provider for Boots, AIG/Chartis, has been found guilty of not drawing "an onerous or significant policy term to the attention of the insured at the time of purchase" and ordered to refund £26,000 to their customer.

 

On a gap year trip James Pinnington, then aged 19, fell off whilst riding a scooter/moped in Vietnam in 2008 injuring himself badly and needed to be brought back to the UK by air ambulance for intensive care. Boots' gap year policy wording stated: "...whether you're planning to hang out in Chile, back pack in the outback...you'll be able to relax knowing that you've got comprehensive cover... should the unthinkable happen". However Boots' insurers used a clause in the 50 pages of small print of the policy to refuse the claim which stated that James needed to have a "UK Class A motorcycle licence" to be covered for riding any kind of moped/scooter.

 

With his son in agony, James's father had to immediately fly out to Vietnam and arrange himself for his son to be repatriated. Boots suggested that he personally pay their specialist repatriation company, who quoted £80,000, but he instead was able to find an Asian air ambulance company to help at a total cost of £25,000.

 

Following representations from the family, the Financial Services Ombudsman, took 18 months to reach a decision in James's favour and has ordered the insurers to pay the claim, amounting to £26,000. The Financial Services Authority is also currently investigating whether these insurance contracts breach the new Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations.

 

Commenting James's father Chris Pinnington says, "I am delighted that the Financial Ombudsman has found in our favour and hope that our worrying experience will serve as a timely warning to other parents and young people planning their gap year travel. I also hope it will send a serious a message to the insurance sector as a whole regarding small print exclusion clauses.

 

"I was lucky that I had contacts in Vietnam to help me arrange repatriation and that I could find the funds to pay within a week, but dread to think what would have happened had I been unable rapidly to raise the £25,000 for the air ambulance with James left in a village hospital in the middle of Vietnam.

 

"Scooters/mopeds are the way people get around in countries like Vietnam and most parents believe that their gap year insurance policy will cover their kids if they are injured. I am urging the insurance industry as a whole to make it absolutely clear to all gap year policy holders whether they would be covered in such situations."

 

James was operated on in England and, after a week in intensive care, managed to walk within three months and is now a student at Bristol University, back to normal health.


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