Disappearing bags

David travelled to the UK for a relative’s funeral. On the day David was due to return to New Zealand, an accident blocked the motorway they planned to travel on to get to Heathrow Airport and David needed to leave in a hurry.

David was rushing to undertake the final checks at the house at which he was staying,  and to pick up the last of his relative’s belongings.  David left his two suitcases by the gate of the property he was staying in, while loading the car parked a short way down the road. David went back into the house to do a final check and get his passports. On his return David’s bags were gone.

The bags contained very sentimental items and David was emotionally distressed. David’s travel insurer declined his claim for the lost bags on the basis his property was left unsupervised in a public place.

David complained to FSCL.  




David disputed the property was unsupervised or in a public place. David argued that people cannot carry 32 kg suitcases to a car. He also stated that the bags were left inside the gate of his relative’s property, and so the bags were left in a private place, not in a public place.

The insurer said it did not matter if the property was private, as a public place was defined as anywhere a public person had access to whether they were authorised to have access or not. Secondly, the insurer claimed no one was in a position to prevent the taking of the bags.




We reviewed David’s policy, his initial submission and the phone calls between the insurer and him. We issued a preliminary view upholding the insurer’s view.

We had to determine whether or not David was in a position to prevent the bags from being taken. A number of factors contributed to the bags being taken. We found that despite David’s best intentions, he had consistently referred to being away from the bags for up to two minutes. David had also disclosed in his report that he and his wife were inside and unable to see the bags.

Taking everything into account, we were satisfied that because David was inside the house and away from his bags for the length of time he was, he could not prevent someone from taking his bags.

As David’s travel policy excluded any cover for unsupervised items, we determined that the insurer was correct to decline the decision.




David disputed our findings but without new evidence, we could not change our view. The complaint was then closed.


Insights for consumers


It is important that consumers are aware travel insurance policies will exclude cover for items left unsupervised to the point you are unable to prevent someone from taking your items. This can be a fine line when considering dropping items or forgetting them.

Consumers should be very careful with their belongings overseas.