Alcohol ‘may lead to rejection of holiday insurance claims’

The Financial Ombudsman Service has advised holidaymakers to check the small print on their insurance policies. Picture: TSPL
The Financial Ombudsman Service has advised holidaymakers to check the small print on their insurance policies. Picture: TSPL
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People booking holidays are being reminded insurance claims made for mishaps while they are away could be turned down if they have been drinking too much alcohol.

The Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) said alcohol exclusions are a common feature of travel insurance policies and if an insurer thinks someone’s accident was due to excessive alcohol consumption it may not pay out.

The service gave the warning as it released its latest complaints figures for the final three months of last year.

Nearly 900 travel insurance complaints were looked at over the period.

The FOS said a few claims it examined had been made after the insurer had decided someone’s drinking was a factor in an accident they had while on holiday. Some also related to specific types of holiday activities such as winter sports or cruise breaks, which may not be included in a standard policy.

The FOS is reminding people to check the small print of their policies, saying insurers can be very specific about what they will cover.

If a consumer makes a claim on their travel insurance, the burden of proof falls on the insurer – not the consumer – to show how any exclusion in a policy applies, the ombudsman service said.

In one recent case, the ombudsman told an insurer to pay up for a man’s medical treatment costs after he had slipped over in a nightclub’s toilets while on holiday, hitting his head.

The man said he had been drinking, but that he was not drunk at the time.

The ombudsman decided, on balance, it did not think the evidence showed it was more likely than not that excessive alcohol consumption had caused his accident.

The service said figures showed more than 21.9 million people from the UK went on summer holidays abroad last year.

By comparison, the ombudsman service dealt with about 3,000 complaints about travel insurance in 2017.

It decided in nearly four in 10 cases the insurer in question had not treated their customer fairly.

FOS chief ombudsman Caroline Wayman said: “Insurers may choose not to pay out if they believe someone’s been drinking excessively, although this doesn’t mean holidays need to be totally alcohol free.

“In each case we look at, we’ll carefully weigh up all the evidence to decide, on balance, whether the insurer has made the right call.”

A spokeswoman at the Association of British Insurers (ABI) said: “As with any insurance, customers do have a responsibility not to behave recklessly.”