Sri Lanka Insurance Ombudsman has speedily settled over seven thousands issues between Insurance Policyholders and major Insurance Companies.
According to Insurance Ombudsman Dr Ranjith Ranaraja, any issues between insurer and insured that comes up before the Ombudsman’s office is settled within a period of two months free of charge.
Public awareness of this industry is vital. There are instances of settlements even without the parties being summoned. They were merely by way of correspondence. It is amazing to notice that certain issues had been settled simply over phone discussions.
|Dr Ranjith Ranaraja
|Dr Wickrema Weerasooria
Insurance Industry covers a vast range of interests. However, motor insurance policies have been all time the majority. Life and general insurance policies including health, fire, theft, home or office, are within the schemes.
Generally, the registered insurance agents island-wide, canvass the benefits of insurance schemes to the public. They also assist the public to open up policies.
It is important to understand that all insurance policies are governed by legal principle “Utmost Good Faith”. This rule applies to all insurance schemes.
Insured should declare authentic facts, if not when a claim is made it gets rejected on the grounds that they had failed to honour the principle of “Utmost Good Faith”.
Most commonly vehicles are undervalued in order to get a lower annual premium. During an inspection following an accident, the claim gets disqualified. However, in genuine instances even if the insurer rejects the claim, the ombudsman could grant relief.
Global wise too the insurance industry plays a unique role. During the past two decades, the insurance industry in Sri Lanka had largely expanded.
The formation of the Insurance Association of Sri Lanka (IASL), has been the stepping stone to its success. The IASL comprises almost all major insurance companies in the country. The industry caters all sections of the general society. Insurance Board of Sri Lanka (IBSL) is the statutory body which oversees and regulate the insurance industry in the country.
Following a proposal to streamline and stabilise insurance activities, the IBSL resolved to appoint an Insurance Ombudsman, in place of their complaints resolution officers. Initially each insurance company had its own Complaints Settlement Officers. The primary objective in appointing the insurance ombudsman was to make the industry more viable and satisfactorily settle grievances and disputes that arise between the policyholders (insureds) and the insurance companies (insurers) in a transparent manner.
Accordingly the IASL, with the concurrence of the Insurance Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (IRCL), the regulatory body for the insurance industry in Sri Lanka appointed an Insurance Ombudsman in 2005.
The Insurance Ombudsman is an independent officer vested with solemn authority as laid down by a Memorandum of Articles. As such a person to hold this office should invariably be a distinguished personage, whose integrity is acceptable and upheld by all concerned.
The Insurance companies that established the Ombudsman Scheme assist and honour the awards and decisions made by him. Besides, decisions made by the ombudsman following an inquiry regarding any issue are final and is also binding on the insurer as well as the insured. However, any aggrieved party to such decision may seek legal redress.
Being an intellectual with wide range of qualifications and experience Dr Wickrema Weerasuriya was unanimously nominated as Sri Lanka’s First Insurance Ombudsman in 2005. He was a renowned public administrator, lawyer, diplomat and a financial consultant.
Following Dr Weerasuriya’s sudden demise Dr Ranjith Ranaraja LLB (Cey) PhD (Sorbonne), was appointed as the 2nd Insurance Ombudsman of Sri Lanka.
Dr Ranaraja entered the legal profession as an advocate of the Supreme Court in 1967. He became a Magistrate in 1973 and served as a judge of the Court of Appeal till 1994. He also served as the Commercial Arbitrator during the period of 1998 to 2001.
From 2001 to 2010, he was the Parliamentary Ombudsman. Subsequently, became the Financial Ombudsman in 2012. Among his other achievements Dr Ranaraja is a visiting lecturer in Law at Peradeniya University. Besides a resource person in continuing legal education progress of SL Bar Association and a consultant of United Nations Development Programme on legal reforms as well as a consultant to SL Judges Institutes’ Database project to create an E-Library of the unreported Supreme Court judgements.
Dr Ranaraja paid a glowing tribute to his predecessor late Dr Weerasuriya, who architected and introduced rules and regulatory methods to promote and safeguard the insurance industry of the Nation.
“In an event of loss or damage to your property, whether it be a road accident if not home, workplace, office, factory involving an insurance policy, insureds must immediately inform the relevant insurance company. This is a main condition set out in the policy. In whatever circumstance you should refrain from rectifying or making any changes without the prior approval of your insurer” the ombudsman said.