Every pet insurer in the UK imposes at 14 day waiting period on their policies, which might sound like it is a restriction on your cover, however there are some benefits for you as a consumer of having this in place which we’ll explore today.
Contents of this guide
Typically it is a 14 day period which all pet insurers in the UK build into their new business policies which restrict you from making a claim for illnesses. Usually you can claim for accidents that occur within the waiting period but some providers have a restriction upon this as well and we’ll explore this later.
It helps insurers to guard against fraud which can have a negative impact on all pet owners insured across the industry.
The terms are sometimes used interchangeably, but when you hear them used separately then the cooling off period relates to your ability to make changes or cancel without incurring costs – although this could change if you have made a claim – but is in place in order to protect consumer rights.
The 14-day waiting period imposed by all providers helps to guard against pet owners who buy their pet insurance policy in the knowledge that their pet is ill and requires imminent treatment. In fact there have been examples of pet owners buying their policy whilst sitting in the vet’s waiting room.
The waiting period is there to protect members from this activity, as the claims paid out by an insurer will impact renewal rates for all customers.
As we mentioned earlier, upon taking out the policy you then have 14 days in order to make changes to your plan without being charged. You may be charged if it causes a change in premium (for example correcting the breed or age of your pet) but you shouldn’t be charged an administration fee for requesting the change in the first place.
It also allows you the same period to change your mind and cancel the policy. If for example you decide that a pet insurance policy isn’t for you, or that you’ve subsequently found a better deal elsewhere then you can cancel and receive a refund for any amount already taken. This assumes that you have not already submitted a claim.
Once the 14 days is up, then your policy will be in full force for the remainder of the policy year and you’ll be bound by the contract that you signed up to.
Any changes you want to make to the policy – particularly if they impact the premium (change of address for example) may result in additional premium and an MTA (Mid term adjustment) fee. Cancellation of your policy outside of the 14 day period may also come with a cancellation fee.
Check with your chosen insurer about the fees they charge in such events. Normally, the only way of avoiding a cancellation fee is if you are cancelling as a result of the death of a pet.
Once your waiting period ends then you will be able to make claims for illnesses that occurred after the 14 day period ends – unless you have purchased an accident only product in which case illnesses will never be covered.
For accidents that occur within the first 14 days of the policy normally you will be covered. Because accidents are exactly that – unplanned and unknown – then you’d have no prior knowledge about any treatment needed and therefore should not be restricted from cover.
However, there are some providers that still impose lesser waiting periods for accidents. Animal Friends for example have a 2 day waiting period on accidents and the standard 14 day waiting period for illnesses.
They are unlikely to be covered. The waiting period is there to avoid people who know that their pets need treatment buying a policy and making a claim instantly.
As one of the first claims assessment tasks the insurer undertakes, they will look at the date of treatment and clinical signs of the illness and compare that to the policy inception date. If the treatment or assessment falls within the first 14 days of the policy then it will almost always end up as a declined claim and you’ll be required to pay the treatment costs from your own pocket.
Here’s where you will find some flexibility. Providers who are keen to switch you from another insurer and offering to waive the waiting period for accidents and illnesses so long as you are switching directly from another provider and have not had a break in coverage.
Smaller providers like Scratch & Patch offer this when switching to any of their plans.
Each time your policy renews you have 14 days in which to make changes or cancel. This is useful if you find that your policy has auto-renewed against your wishes. If this is the case, then contact your insurer within 14 days of your renewed policies cover start date and inform them that you wish to cancel the policy. They should refund you without a cancellation charge.
However, whilst the 14 period exists should you wish to make changes, it isn’t enforced for claims for illnesses. So if you have renewed and wish to put in a claim for an illness that occurred within 14 days of your renewal then you can do so and it will be assessed by the claims team.
So on renewal you have the benefit of still being able to claim, whilst also having the benefit of being able to make changes and cancel without incurring costs.