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AssetInsure has strongest family violence policy – desktop audit finds

AssetInsure has the strongest family violence policy in the general insurance industry.

This was the finding of a desktop audit undertaken to evaluate the family violence policies of the 47 subscribers to the General Insurance Code of Practice.

The 2020 General Insurance Code of Practice introduced new provisions requiring subscribers to have family violence policies available online for their customers by July 1 2020.

The desktop audit examined whether subscribers family violence policies met the 11 areas required to be addressed by the Insurance Council of Australia’s Guide to helping customers affected by family violence. Policies were judged as to whether they met the requirement, partly met the requirement or did not meet the requirement at all.

Only AssetInsure achieved an 11 out of 11 score. The policy was found to have definitive language and specific measures that detail how they will help those subject to family violence. One insurer (Tokio Marine) achieved 10 out 11, one insurer (Youi) achieved a 9.5 out of 11 and three insurers achieved 9 out of 11: Aioi Nissay Dowa, Great Lakes, and MunichRe.

“It is great to see AssetInsure stepping up and other insurers making solid commitments to assisting Australians subject to family violence,” said Karen Cox.

“Family violence is a scourge and insurance can unfortunately be intentionally or unintentionally used by perpetrators to harm victims. Perpetrators for example can take control of home or car insurances depriving their partner of insurance altogether, or preventing them from making a claim or receiving a payment. Perpetrators can also damage homes leaving innocent victims unable to claim due to exclusions under the policy. Survivors of family violence can also be treated poorly by insurance claims handling processes.

“Strong, clear and effective family violence policies, implemented well, can go a long way to start addressing the issues family violence victims face. But it is critical that these policies be backed up by a strong culture of supporting vulnerable consumers and putting the appropriate systems in place to not just talk the talk but to walk the walk.”

Disappointingly a little over half the subscribers scored 5.5 out of 11 or less. Ten insurers scored less than 3 or less out of 11 and four insurers scored 2 out of 11.

“We hope this research can highlight to all general insurers where they can improve and can learn from each other’s policies to better serve family violence victims. We are keen to ensure that providing strong protections for victims of family violence is not an area of competitive tension between insurers and that this research can be the rising tide that helps lift all the ships of the industry to higher standards.”

The full desktop audit can be obtained on the Financial Rights publications page: https://financialrights.org.au/publication/

Background

Clause 17 of the Insurance Council of Australia’s Guide to helping customers affected by family violence states that “Each insurer should develop and implement a family violence policy that covers the following areas:

  1. make sure that safety is paramount for anyone affected by family violence
  2. early recognition of family violence
  3. training to improve employees’ responses to someone affected by family violence
  4.  protecting private and confidential information of customers affected by family violence
  5. minimising the number of times a customer affected by family violence needs to disclose information about family violence
  6. ensuring appropriate and sensitive claims handling processes for claimants affected by family violence
  7. ensuring collection arrangements are handled sensitively
  8. arranging access to Financial Hardship help
  9. informing customers, employees, distributors and service suppliers about information and assistance available to people experiencing family violence
  10. referring customers, employees and distributors to specialist services
  11. supporting employees and distributors who:
    1. are affected by gamily violence; or
    1. experiencing vicarious trauma after serving affected customers.”

To achieve a best practice family violence policy, General Insurance Code subscribers should:

  • adopt the approach of the AssetInsure policy which sets out why each of the 11 areas are important and puts specific measures in place to address each issue; and
  • in addition, include the following specific commitments found in other subscriber family violence policies that provide further protections for vulnerable consumers:
  • for safety reasons, include a large button to navigate quickly to another website: see the Hollard policy;
  • in relation to both protecting privacy and only making customers tell their story once, include a provision similar to the Cover-More policy:

customer files, (such as policy documents and claims information) will be flagged as affected by family violence and will be accessible only to identified authorised employees’;

  • during claims handling, take the customer’s reasonable communication preferences into account. Cover-More, for example, includes a reference to gender preference which should be included in all policies:

We can also take into consideration that your specific preferences in communicating with us for example, if you request to speak to a male/female employee whom you feel more comfortable in communicating with”.

  • Include a link to the financial hardship application so your customer can apply for assistance straight away: see the Guild Insurance policy;
  • When informing customers of the assistance that is available the family violence policy should include names of available external support resources and their contact numbers and email addresses for ease and quick access. Hallmark General Insurance Company Limited policy includes these details. Further, Great Lakes Insurance SE – Munich Re policy helpfully stipulates that a list of external services will be kept up-to-date; 
  • Reassure the customer that their family violence situation will not hurt their claim:

‘Telling us about any situation of domestic and family violence will not negatively impact how we deal with you’ – see Creditcorp Insurance Pty Limited policy

  • Set out a complaints procedure for customers to lodge any complaints with respect to compliance with the family violence policy as the AIG Australia Limited policy sets out. Whilst this is not a requirement under the ICA’s Guide to helping customers affected by family violence it represents best practice.

Financial Rights also recommends that:

  • All general insurers include a “conduct of others” clause that can go some way to addressing harms borne by the interaction of insurance exclusions and innocent victims of family violence. This occurs when a family violence perpetrator damages home building or home contents but the conduct, because it is by a family member, activates a policy exclusion. For example, a new clause introduced by Suncorp asserts that if the conduct of one policyholder has prejudiced another policyholder (e.g. through an act of domestic violence), the insurer may pay some or all of the claim where it is not legally required to do so.
  • The key elements of the Family Violence Guide be included in the General Insurance Code in such a way that empowers the CGC to assess subscribers meeting the content expectations of a family violence policy and compliance with their commitments made under those policies.
  • The ICA or the CGC maintain a central page providing links to each subscriber’s family violence policy for ease of access.

Contact


For further information contact Drew MacRae media@financialrights.org.au or 0404 604 978