Tamsyn Parker

Tamsyn Parker is the NZ Herald Assistant Business Editor

Financial distress puts banks in gun

Insurance and Savings Ombudsman Karen Stevens. Photo / Supplied
Insurance and Savings Ombudsman Karen Stevens. Photo / Supplied

Financial hardship is playing a big part in the complaints being laid with New Zealand's four financial service dispute resolution schemes.

Banking Ombudsman Deborah Battel, whose scheme members include the banks and finance companies, said there was still a high number of New Zealanders in a distressed financial position, with a high proportion of its complaints relating to mortgagee sales.

"Hardship issues are still a theme. The reality is in the majority of cases we can't really stop a mortgagee sale," she said. "People come to us in a fairly desperate situation. But by and large if people are in default, unless there are exceptional circumstances, it is often not in people's best interests to delay. It's a really tough call."

Insurance and Savings Ombudsman Karen Stevens said a large part of her work in the last year - 650 complaints/inquiries and 33 disputes - related to the Christchurch earthquake.

"That has been quite a prominent part of our work. A lot of people have still not had their complaints settled," she said.

Financial Services Complaints chief executive Susan Taylor said around half of her inquiries related to insurance.

She said that was because insurance firms were well aware of the referral process and many people had insurance. The majority of insurance complaints related to travel insurance.

"The lesson out of that is how important it is for people to read the policy correctly. People do get a nasty shock," she said.

Taylor said lenders and finance companies were also a feature with concerns around consumer credit, mortgage loans and irresponsible lending.

- NZ Herald

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