The Insurance Claims Complaints Board (ICCB) has blamed the recession for a 60 per cent rise in grievances last year. The ICCB, a five-member independent body chaired by retired District Court judge Henry Wong Wei-chow, adjudicates on complaints arising from personal insurance claims. It received 145 complaints last year, against 91 in 1997. Including 22 cases brought forward from 1997, the board dealt with 167 complaints last year. As of December 31, 138 cases had been closed, with 29 still in progress. 'The increase in the number of complaints to the board is a result of the recession,' Mr Wong said. 'When the economy is good, people usually don't complain about unsettled claims involving small amounts. The opposite is the case during a recession.' Board member Victor Apps said the increase in complaints showed the public was becoming more aware of the ICCB. With the recession not yet over, the board expected a further rise in grievances this year. In the first four months of this year, the board received 70 complaints, nearly half the total for last year. Of the 138 cases completed last year, 35 resulted in compensation, amounting to $3.3 million. This compared with 30 cases and total compensation of $2.6 million in 1997. There were 28 complaints rejected as groundless, while 27 were withdrawn. Another 40 grievances were outside the board's terms of reference. It can handle only complaints related to personal insurance with claims amounting to less than $600,000. Hospitalisation was the top category for disputes last year, with 39 complaints, followed by life policies with 35 cases, personal accident with 26 and motor insurance with 24.