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LAHORE: The office of Federal Insurance Ombudsman (FIO) received 3,107 complaints from policyholders in 2020 against 2,441 in 2019, while 2,193 complaints were disposed of in the same year, said FIO Dr Muhammad Khawar Jameel.

He said a monetary relief of Rs2.13 billion was given to the aggrieved complainants during 2020 by dispensing justice against 2,183 complaints.

According to him, the year 2021 has witnessed an increase of 25 percent in registration of complaints against insurance companies during 2021, out of which almost 50 percent were disposed of throughout the country.

Being a highly educated, seasoned and professional bureaucrat, Dr Jameel has been holding various key posts in the federal and provincial governments for over a period spanning 35 years before assuming the office of FIO.

He has a vast and varied experience of working in top administrative and management positions in the capital and has served in various major and important ministries eventually making it to the post of federal secretariat.

He said the insurance industry in Pakistan was comparatively small in comparison to the volume of insurance business in our region. However, he added, the situation has shown an improvement during the last five years and the industry has witnessed and annual growth of 30-35 percent during this period.

He said he had presented the annual report for the year 2021 to President Arif Alvi who has lauded the achievements of FIO and advised him to create awareness about the role of FIO in providing prompt and free of cost justice to the aggrieved insurance policyholders against maladministration of insurance companies.

He said his office had received 3,002 complaints against maladministration in bancassurance, followed by 196 of death policies, 127 of maturity claims, 81 of vehicle insurances, 59 of machinery policies, 31 of theft, 25 of fire policies, and seven of health policies.

On the issues related to bancassurance, he said it was the combination of bank and insurance. The essence of banking is to maintain secrecy, but to sell out the bancassurance product bank officials and representatives of insurance companies are both hand in gloves in misrepresentation and selling of policies.

“We have taken various steps to curb and mitigate these practices from the bank desk and referred the suggestions to SBP and SECP for taking strict actions.”

Dr Jameel urged the policyholder to read the terms and conditions very carefully before signing policy documents. In most of the cases, he said, the policy holders did not have the sufficient educational background to fully understand various conditions and terms of insurance policy. In this case, it is advisable that the policy holders may not be tempted to sign the policy documents in a hurry before discussing it threadbare with someone who can understand the laid down terms and conditions in a better way, he added. He has advised bank officials and bancassurance companies’ officials to ensure transparency and the element of fair play. Generally, he said, it took sixty (60) days to dispose off a complaint against an insurance company. However, delay is caused when the complainant or the respondent company seek adjournment for one reason or the other.

Meanwhile, he said his office had also succeeded in securing Urdu translation of insurance documents as integral part of policy documents to save the policyholders from fraudulent activities.

Accordingly, all the insurance companies have ensured provision of all documents to the policyholders in bilingual i.e. in both English and Urdu language, written as line by line translation on the same page.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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