A man who had his travel insurance claim turned down after being scheduled for a last-minute bone marrow transplant for his cancer-struck brother was just one of the rising number of complaints received by a financial dispute service.

Financial Services Complaints said it opened 288 cases for investigation in the year to June 30, a 35 per cent increase on the prior year - and its highest number since it began investigating complaints in 2011.

Of the 245 cases it investigated during the year more than a third (36 per cent ) related to insurers, and travel insurance was the product most complained about.

Complaints about consumer credit remained high while it had also seen a significant increase in complaints about travel cards.


Susan Taylor, chief executive of FSC, said the rise in travel insurance complaints correlated with more Kiwis travelling overseas and more travel insurance being sold.

In one case a man named "Tim" booked a trip to Rarotonga in January for a holiday in September. His brother was diagnosed with leukaemia in June.

Tim was told his brother would need a stem cell transplant but that he was too old to donate.

His brother's condition was severe but not yet terminal so he still planned to go to Rarotonga.

He bought travel insurance in August but a week before he was due to leave he was called in for an urgent donor assessment and was found to be a bone marrow donor match.

The hospital scheduled a transplant for the same day he was due to leave for his holiday and Tim cancelled his trip and made a claim for $4760 to his insurer.

However his claim was declined based on an exclusion for pre-existing conditions.

Financial Services Complaints reviewed his complaint and found his insurer was not required to cover his costs as the exclusion applied not only to Tim but to anyone's pre-existing medical condition that meant he had to cancel or change his trip.


But it believed the case was appropriate for an ex gratia payment given Tim had been advised he would not be able to donate stem cells and the risk of him being called into donate was unforeseeable.

The insurer agreed that it was an exceptional case and offered to pay half of Tim's costs at $2380 to settle the case.

FSC said the lesson to learn was the importance of booking insurance at the same time as booking a trip.

"If you've paid for a trip, but haven't organised insurance, you're bearing the risk if something goes wrong."

In another complaint a couple were travelling around Europe when they had two travel cards stolen within 48 hours.

On their first night in London 'Vicki' had her wallet stolen from her handbag while out to dinner at a pub.

They cancelled all her cards but the next day her partner "Andrew" was withdrawing cash from an ATM with his travel card when he was distracted by a pickpocket who grabbed the card as it was being ejected from the machine.

Andrew believed the ATM machine was malfunctioning and went inside the bank to get help where security footage revealed what had happened.

He then cancelled the card but in talking to the travel card company found a number of transactions had already been made on his supplementary card. He realised this card had been in Vicki's wallet which was stolen the night before.

He cancelled the supplementary card as well and complained to the travel card provider about the unauthorised transactions.

But they declined to reimburse the transactions on the card before he cancelled it saying that the delay in reporting the card stolen caused the loss.

Andrew complained about the insurer's view and said the couple were stressed following the first theft and because the card was not normally in her wallet they had forgotten it was there.

The FSC said it could not uphold his complaint because he had not immediately reported the theft and he was obliged to know where both cards were at all times.

If he had reported the stolen card straight away he would have lost $250 at the most, but the delay cost him about $1500.