Research and ratings agency 'did not feel comfortable’ keeping travel insurer product ratings on site
Fairer Finance has pulled the product ratings for travel insurance brands operated by Travel Insurance Facilities (TIF) - aka tifgroup - from its site.
Underwritten by Union Reiseversicherung AG (URV), tifgroup brands include the likes of Holidaysafe, Flexicover and World First, Alpha and Puffin.
Two weeks ago, the ratings and research agency removed the product scores related to TIF-powered providers from its site, posting the following statement for each: ‘In November 2018, The Times newspaper published an investigation into TIF, which provides insurance for [insert tifgroup brand name]. TIF refutes the allegations and is contesting them through the courts. Until the case is resolved, we have removed our ratings of TIF's products.'
When asked about the decision, Fairer Finance co-founder James Daley told COVER: "We were shocked by the story in The Times last year and we noted at the time that TIF had taken The Times to court. In the interim we have seen FOS cases offering evidence that some customers are not getting a good deal from travel insurance brands underwritten by tifgroup. As a result, we did not feel comfortable keeping their ratings on the Fairer Finance site."
There are currently more than 20 tifgroup brands offering a full range of policies, rated from one to five stars by Fairer Finance. Daley added: "These ratings represent what these brands are promising, however they become meaningless if these promises are not being kept. If there is something more serious going on at TIF, we did not want our ratings to be seen as an endorsement, so we have decided to remove them until the court case involving The Times has been resolved."
Richard Smith, managing director of tifgroup, said: "We were surprised to hear about this, since Fairer Finance hadn't spoken to us or informed us of their decision. We'd be curious to know on what independent criteria their decision is based. Presumably their recently-signed deal with The Times newspaper has played a part. Other than that we're not particularly concerned."
On 4 December, Fairer Finance announced on its site that it is launching a personal finance website in partnership with The Times and Sunday Times entitled Money Mentor.
As part of the deal, the broadsheet paper will use Fairer Finance customer experience and product ratings on its site. Separately it has also commissioned the agency to rate brands in areas such as investment platforms, equity release and online will writers.
Despite the timings of the announcement and the removal of the tifgroup ratings, Daley told COVER that the decision to do so was "totally unrelated" to the agreement with The Times. "It was entirely our own independent editorial decision and The Times partnership had no bearing on it at all," he said.
Brands are rated out of five by Fairer Finance based on a number of metrics, including claims handling, amount of cover and repatriation. For a brand to score five stars it is required to meet standards across all 30 product areas laid out by Fairer Finance.
Fairer Finance has kept customer excellence ratings for TIF brands on its site. These reflect actual experiences of consumers using tifgroup travel policies, Daley said.
Earlier this year, we reported on the interim FOS findings in relation to Martin Blake, who lost his life after suffering from a heart attack while on holiday.
TIF said at the time it ‘strongly disagreed' with the Ombudsman findings and has since challenged the interim view of the case.
The travel insurer told COVER: "tifgroup's decisions throughout this difficult situation were taken purely on clinical grounds, based on medical advice given to us by experienced doctors with specific medical aviation knowledge, and always in Mr Blake's best interests."
COVER is still awaiting the FOS' final decision.
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