In December 2020, Mason asked his insurance adviser to arrange cover for a new car (“car A”) under his business insurance policy. The adviser replied asking Mason to confirm some details. Mason did not reply to the email, but said that he phoned the adviser the next day to answer the questions. The adviser had no recollection or evidence of this call. The adviser did not put any cover in place for car A.
Mason said that car A was run off the road by another driver in July 2021 and that he contacted his adviser about the accident. The adviser told him to repair the car and send the bill to the at-fault party. The adviser’s company said they had no record of receiving information about this incident. Mason said he ordered approximately $3,000 worth of parts, which became unusable when the car flooded while in his driveway. Mason said that the car flooded due to being left in the driveway and leaves accumulating in the drains.
Mason arranged insurance for a replacement car in October 2021 (“car B”). The adviser confirmed that the car had been added to the business’s insurance. In March 2022 car B and some personal items, including his phone and the only car key for car A, were stolen. Mason reported the theft to the adviser’s company.
In April 2022, the adviser told Mason that the premiums for car B had not been paid, and that they would need to be paid before the claim could be investigated. Upon reviewing the invoices and policy for car B, Mason realised that the car was insured for $18,000 instead of the $24,000 that he believed they had agreed to.
In May 2022, Mason purchased a replacement car (“car C”) and told the adviser. Soon after, Mason discovered that car A was in fact not insured. Mason told the insurer he was dissatisfied with the overall situation, particularly the delay in informing him that car A was not insured. Mason also asked the adviser to confirm that car C was insured. The adviser replied with attached invoices for insurance for both car A and car C, and asked Mason how he would like to pay. Mason told the adviser that he would need to consider whether car A was worth insuring but asked for car C to be added to the business plan.
The adviser’s company replied to Mason’s various complaints, including the delay in informing him car A was uninsured and car B being insured for less than he believed, in June 2022. Among other things, the adviser’s company confirmed that both cars A and C were now insured. Mason was unhappy with the adviser’s company’s response and complained to FSCL.
After the complaint, the adviser emailed Mason asking him to pay the monthly premiums payments for cars A and C. In August, the adviser told Mason that he would assume that he no longer required cover if he did not reply by the following day. Mason said that he replied in time, but the adviser’s company said that he replied one day late. The adviser attempted to resurrect the cancelled insurance, but the insurer declined due to a 12-month stand-down policy for any client whose insurance is cancelled due to non-payment. The adviser organised insurance through a different insurer.
Mason said he asked the adviser to insure vehicle A, and the adviser was at fault for not insuring the vehicle. The adviser delayed in telling him that car A was not insured, causing further loss due to the unused car parts and the damage to the car while it was parked at his house.
The adviser’s company said that car A was not added to the insurance plan because Mason had not provided the requested information. Further, they said Mason should have noticed his car was not insured when he did not pay any premiums. The adviser’s company also said they had no information about car A being run of the road and had not advised Mason to purchase the car parts. Finally, they said that the damage that occurred in the driveway was unlikely to be covered by insurance because it was most likely gradual damage.
Mason wanted car B to be insured for $24,000, and he said that the adviser had made an error in insuring the vehicle for $18,000. Mason was also unhappy that the premiums for car B had not automatically been added to Mason’s business insurance arrangement, causing the premiums to not be paid.
The advising company did not agree with Mason’s recollection of the sum insured, saying Mason agreed to $18,000 being closer to market value. Further, they said that premiums for car B were not added to the business arrangement because the business did not activate a link included on the invoice.
Mason said that the insurance for vehicle C being cancelled from inception for non-payment was the adviser’s company’s fault because he had replied before the deadline. Mason said that the adviser cancelling the insurance resulted in him having a “bad debtor flag”, which would affect his future insurance.
The adviser’s company said that their records showed Mason responded after the deadline, and that they had given Mason adequate notice before cancelling his insurance. They also noted that they had organised insurance for Mason through a different insurer, so Mason had not suffered any loss. Finally, the company said that no “bad debtor flag” existed for Mason.
There was insufficient evidence that Mason had replied to the adviser’s questions about car A. As Mason’s phone was stolen with car B, he could not prove the phone call. However, the adviser was subject to a statutory obligation to exercise the care, diligence, and skill that a reasonable financial adviser would exercise in the same circumstances. We considered the adviser should have followed-up with Mason when he did not reply to the email about car A.
There was insufficient evidence of any insurable loss arising from Mason being run off the road. It seemed inherently unlikely that Mason, who said he believed the car was insured, would have accepted a solution from his adviser that did not include an insurance claim. It was more likely that Mason did not phone the adviser. Further, Mason could not produce evidence of purchasing the car parts. We did not have sufficient evidence of any loss that would have been covered by insurance.
The delay in telling Mason that car A was not insured did not cause any loss. If Mason was not clearing away the leaves, blockages (and flooding) was foreseeable. The damage to the car while in the driveway was unlikely to be covered by insurance, due to the damage occurring over time.
We found that the adviser’s company should have done more to draw Mason’s attention to the relevant link he needed to click to include car B’s premiums on the business arrangement. We again found that the adviser should have followed-up with Mason. However, this did not cause Mason a financial loss, as the premium needed to be paid. Although it was stressful to discover that the premium needed to be paid urgently, this did not warrant a payment for non-financial loss.
The difference in the insured value was not crucial and no finding was required, as the claim had been settled and Mason did not advise of any shortfall.
There appeared to be an unexplained delay between Mason’s instructions to add car C to the insurance plan and the adviser’s reply email. However, this was not what caused cancellation of the cover. The cover appeared to be cancelled due to Mason not returning the completed proposal in time. If Mason wished to pursue this element of his complaint, he would need to explain the discrepancy in email timestamps provided by himself and the adviser.
We said that Mason should discontinue his complaint. Although the adviser could have followed up with Mason on various issues, he did not cause Mason financial or significant non-financial loss.
Mason did not reply to our preliminary decision, so we closed our case file.
Insights for consumers and participants
This complaint illustrates communication failures by both the consumer, for not responding to their adviser’s questions, and the adviser, for not following up when he did not receive a reply from the client.