Ombudsman more power than Facebook: forces insurer to pay up


Nic Hughes

The family of Nic Hughes faced a tragedy in October last year, when he died of cancer of the gall bladder. However, life got even harder in December, when Friends Life refused to pay out on his life insurance policy.

His widow launched a social media campaign to get them to pay - but in the end it was the Ombudsman who came to her rescue.


As we reported at the end of last year, Hughes had been fighting the decision at the time of his death, after trying to claim on a £100,000 critical illness policy.

Friends Life argued that when he applied for the cover he had not disclosed two key facts about his medical history: that he had suffered pins and needles in his limbs and he had been advised to reduce his alcohol intake for medical reasons.

He argued that the numbness was a result of the ulcerative colitis he had suffered for years - which he had included on the form. And his alcohol intake was not excessive and had not contributed to his death.

After his death his widow, Susannah Hancock, launched a social media campaign, with a Facebook page (with over 2,700 members) and an online petition on - which garnered more than 63,000 signatures. Several celebrities joined the campaign - including Stephen Fry, and it received wide media coverage.

However, it refused to budge.


When Hancock's case reached the Financial Ombudsman Service, on the other hand, it was finally forced to relent, and pay out the £100,000 with interest.

The Guardian reported that the Ombudsman said in a letter to Hancock, "it accepts that any non-disclosure was not deliberate or relevant to the claim he later made – so the firm accepts it was not entitled to rely on that and it should have paid the critical illness claim when it was submitted."

A spokesman from Friends Life told the Daily Mail: "We have now been informed of the Financial Ombudsman Service's (FOS) initial decision. We committed to abide by the FOS's decision and, while we continue to have concerns about this case, we are sympathetic to the circumstances of Mr Hughes' family and believe it would be unfair to prolong the claim process any further.

Friends of the family running the Facebook campaign wrote: "Spoken to the family. They danced around the kitchen table. So much joy. This is going to mean so so much for them."

The Facebook page is full of relief, joy, and a sense that the right thing has been done. However, perhaps the message that we should all take away from this story is from one member of the community who wrote: "It's also a reminder to contact my life insurance company and update them on recent changes to my health."

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