Watchdog slams travel insurers' medical 'get-out' clauses

Travel insurance companies attacked for get out clausesPA


The consumer watchdog Which? has attacked travel insurance companies after record numbers of complaints from Brits who say they have been cheated by medical 'get out' clauses.

Its investigation has found that insurers change terms after policies are sold, often leaving travellers without any cover.

In a survey of 1,876 members, one third said that when they told their insurance provider about a new medical condition after buying their policy, they were forced to pay a higher premium or had their cover removed.

Examples include one Which? member who took out insurance for a trip to the US with Staysure. Three weeks before he was due to travel he was diagnosed with chronic lymphatic leukaemia. His doctor told him he was fit to travel but when he informed Staysure he was told that, on top of his original £118.41 policy, he'd have to pay £925.63 or cancel his trip and make a claim.

Another member took out annual insurance with InsureandGo but was diagnosed with an early stage of skin cancer a couple of weeks before he was due to travel to Los Angeles. His doctor also said he was fit to travel but InsureandGo refused to cover him for the new condition, or for other conditions the policy had originally covered.

Which? says that these cases are happening despite a ruling from the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) several years ago that it was generally not fair for insurers to refuse to cover new medical conditions that arose between the customer buying the policy and the start of the trip.

The consumer watchdog says that more complaints about the issue are being recieved than ever before. It said the FOS now receives around 50 complaints every month, more than double than those they were receiving three years ago.
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Watchdog slams travel insurers' medical 'get-out' clauses

Do you ever check which currency you are being charged when you pay for things abroad? I know I don't. But apparently, some foreign retailers - especially in Ireland, France, Spain and the US - charge in sterling and then convert to their local currency using their own rate of exchange, which is almost always higher than your card provider would demand.

Travel writer's tip: Ask which currency you are being charged in when you make a transaction. You can insist on your right to choose to pay in the local currency.

A recent survey discovered that hotels charge an average of £12 a head for the most important meal of the day. That's enough to have you spluttering your morning coffee. But it's a snip, if you ask me – I've been stung for as much £30 for bacon, egg and sausage in a Paris hotel.

Travel writer's tip: When booking a room for the night, always check what's included. If the price is B&B, ask what it costs without breakfast and assess which tarriff represents better value.

Ouch! This one really hurts! No one wants to travel around with wads of money in their pocket - but if you change money while you're abroad you can expect to see some hefty charges on your next bank statement – up to three per cent - just for getting hold of your own cash. On top of that, you could get stung for a fixed 'overseas transaction fee' on your purchases. Why? Well, the banks say they are just covering their costs for moving money around... hmm.

Travel writer's tip: Try to deal in cash (shop around for the best exchange rates before you leave) and keep withdrawals from ATMs to a minimum. If you travel abroad frequently, choose a card with a low fee for spending in foreign destinations or sign up for one of the prepaid travel cards that are now available (remember to check for hidden fees though!).

It's not just those little bottles of spirits in the hotel bedroom fridge that can cost a pretty penny. Now we have to watch out for the outrageous prices charged for bottles of water. In one American hotel I visited recently, a choice of different bottles of mineral water had been set out on a tray in my room – and not one was under £5. One was so posh it cost a staggering £15. It must have had magical properties for that price. Watch out too for the new 'laid back' style of mini-bar, a tray laid with tempting treats, from bottles of wine to biscuits. This isn't the hotel being generous, you'll be sure to find an eye-watering price list nearby.

Travel writer's tip: Stock up on provisions in an ordinary shop outside the hotel. And if you have a favourite evening tipple, pick up a bottle on the plane or at the airport on your way in.

How long will we have to wait until the scandal of charging for WiFi access is a thing of the past? I had a startling £30 a day slapped onto my bill by one hotel in the States for the convenience of checking my emails in my room. And on a short train journey in the UK, I had to pay a minimum fee of £4.50 to hook up. It's a nonsense and a very short-sighted one at that.

Travel writer's tip: Choose a hotel that doesn't charge Wi-Fi and give yourself a break from the computer when you're in transit unless the service is offered for free. Simple.

There are so many things to think about when you're getting ready to jet off to the sun, so it's easy to forget to book your airport parking. But if you don't pre-book you could be stung for up to £45 a day to leave your car at some of our major airports.

Travel writer's tip: Shop around – try the comparison sites to find the best savings. Plus there are companies that will bundle up additional services, such as car parking and airport hotels, to make your holiday run a lot smoother.

Who uses the hotel telephone these days? not me. The advent of the mobile phone and Skype has made it a no-brainer to dodge this universally expensive facility where you can pay as much as 50p per minute to make a local call.

Travel writer's tip: Text your hotel number home and get your nearest and dearest to call you back – if your landline provider allows free favourite numbers that you can change at will, find out the hotel number you'll be staying at and temporarily make it one of your favourites. If you're travelling with your computer, sign up for Skype: you can connect to another Skype account back home for free or to your home landline for a fraction of the cost of the hotel phone.

Check into any hotel and you should be forgiven for assuming its facilities are at your disposal. Wrong. There are plenty of hotels out there prepared to charge you to use the gym and the swimming pool. At a resort I stayed at on Britain's south coast, you couldn't use the gym unless you had an induction with one of the fitness trainers – fair enough, except the introduction cost £2.50 a head. Why?

Travel writer's tip: Avoid this rip off with a simple in-room workout routine or go for a swim in the sea or a run in the great outdoors – who needs simulated hills?

So, you're jet-lagged and don't fancy dressing up for dinner tonight. Easy, call room service! But how much is it going to cost you to have the waiter bring the tray to your room rather than your table? At one London hotel, I was charged a whopping £10 for the privilege, and I've heard it can be much more.

Travel writer's tip: Check whether room service incurs a charge before you order – believe it or not, not all hotels grab this opportunity to make a quick buck. For more money-savvy tips, check out our brilliant feature Ten ways to save money on your next holiday

The world is pair-shaped. If you want to travel to its four corners you'll find it a whole lot cheaper to do it with someone else in tow. Most holiday packages, and hotel rooms, are charged on the basis of two sharing. It's a price single travellers have been paying for years.

Travel writer's tip: Check if your tour operator is one of the few enlightened ones operating a fair pricing policy for singles, such as Archer's Direct and Mercury Direct. And look at what's being offered by the growing army of holiday companies catering to single travellers, including Solo's and Just You.

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