This was set up in 1981 to deal with complaints and disputes from UK policyholders of member companies only. It is not a Government body, but has been set up by a number of companies for the benefit of their policyholders. As of 1994, there are over 350 members, including Lloyd's.

Under the Financial Services Act, the Bureau is a recognised complaints body. It is independent of the insurance industry and acts impartially as an arbitrator. Policyholders are not charged as the expenses of running the Bureau are met by the member companies.

There are certain matters which the Ombudsman does not deal with; examples are surrender values and bonus rates, as these are the direct responsibility of the life assurance company's actuary. Also not covered is industrial insurance as the Industrial Assurance Commissioner has a statuory duty to deal with complaints.

The procedure for making a complaint to the Bureau is simple:

  1. The complaint should be laid before the Ombudsman within six months of the final failure to agree with the insurance company.
  2. If the complaint is upheld, then the Ombudsman's decision is final and binding on the Insurance company, which has to pay any award made, up to a maximum of ₤100,000. The Ombudsman's decision is, however; not binding on the policyholder; who can still take legal action if he or she wishes.
The Bureau issues annual reports, giving statistics of the number of complaints received and dealt with during the preceding year; indicating totals of the type of insurance involved. Since 1981 the Bureau has received 48,800 complaints. During 1996 new cases totalled 4,959 (against 6,438 in 1995).