How I won back millions for readers – and an update on your favourite cases

Another rising complaint is insurance not paying out. Yes, insurers have had an expensive year thanks to Covid-19, but isn’t the very point of their existence to identify and quantify risk? They should have been perfectly prepared for a pandemic, yet the way many have tried to wriggle out of paying out has been a disgrace. The worst offenders have been travel and wedding insurers, but the mayhem seems to have spilled over into other areas of insurance, too.

I’ve also noticed bereaved customers across all companies receiving substandard care this year. Usually firms have special teams to deal with those who are grieving, but this year they appear to have been depleted as staff are redeployed to other departments. Firms are happy to blame “the virus” for slow service and poor treatment, but I’m afraid this won’t wash with anyone, least of all those who have lost loved ones at a time like this.

The sums of money retrieved for readers in 2020 have varied drastically, from a refund for a £6.99 breakfast to finding a lost life insurance policy worth £493,000. But behind each letter is a human enduring some form of struggle, and it is always my pleasure to ease their burden. Many of you have requested updates on how previous correspondents from these pages are now getting on, so I caught up with some of them to find out.

I’ve had stacks of inquiries about the woman who confided in me about her coercive husband leading a secret double life for 20 years and tricking her out of £900,000. She maintained the lawyers who arranged a remortgaging of her family home had let her down by failing to make her fully aware of what she was signing.

The lawyers refused to admit fault, but I vowed to fight the case all the way. Following publication, I decided to contact the law firm’s professional indemnity insurers to let them know the woman intended to take the firm to court. I invited it to make a settlement.

It requested a vast list of information from the woman, which took her many days to compile. Weeks passed before a pathetically brief brush-off email addressing none of the requested detail landed in her inbox. No settlement was offered. I felt it was incredibly disrespectful. Now, after months of persistence, the insurer has finally agreed to mediation to discuss a settlement.

I have suggested she may want to seek professional help with this, due to the large sum of money at stake. I am hopeful she will receive a settlement in the new year without going to court, but in the meantime, she is looking forward to spending Christmas with her daughter, who has been her rock throughout this fiasco. And as for her husband? You may not be surprised to hear that he remains as uncooperative as ever.