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Monday, August 22, 2011

Insurance companies and the Queensland Floods Commission of Inquiry

After the State's floods, the Queensland Premier set up in January this year an independent Commission of Inquiry to examine the floods and their aftermath. It is required to report back in February 2012.

Unlike the Royal Commission of Inquiry sitting in Christchurch, with its very tight focus, the Queensland Commission has been given wider terms of reference. They are to examine the chain of events prior to the floods, what happened during the floods, and what happened afterwards.

Of particular interest is the inclusion in the terms of reference the requirement to examine the performance of insurance companies. The following is from the Commission's website (here)
The Commission’s terms of reference require it to examine the performance of private insurers in meeting their claims responsibilities. This will involve an inquiry into the performance of private insurers in processing and deciding flood related claims including, but not limited to:
  • the timeliness, or otherwise, of processing claims
  • the adequacy, or otherwise, of the assessment process
  • the adequacy, or otherwise, of communication between the insurer and the insured
  • the adequacy, or otherwise, of complaints processes about the claims
  • whether any potential claimants have been inappropriately dissuaded from lodging or pursuing a claim.
The Commission is considering submissions and other material on insurance related matters, and it will hold public hearings in Brisbane and a number of regional centres.
Also being investigated, although by a Commonwealth review process, are other factors of disaster insurance on a nation wide basis and covering:
  • the extent of underinsurance and non-insurance;
  • the ability of private insurers to offer adequate and affordable cover;
  • how to enhance consumer awareness about scope and coverage of insurance;
  • future insurance premium levels;
  • whether insurance should be subsidised or provided through a national disaster insurance program;
  • disaster mitigation strategies affect availability and affordability of flood and other disaster insurance.
Information on the Commonwealth review is here.

These Australian areas of review have great relevance to our New Zealand situation, and are needed here, with the one difference of including EQC as an insurer for the purpose of the reviews. There ought not be much resistance to the idea as a large part of the insurance offered in New Zealand is from Australian based companies who must be used to being reviewed by now.
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