FOS receives 300-plus Debbie disputes

The Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) has received 312 disputes relating to Cyclone Debbie, which swept across parts of Queensland and NSW in March last year, causing more than $1.6 billion in insured losses. Speaking after FOS’ general insurance open forum, Lead Ombudsman for General Insurance John Price told 203 of the disputes have already been closed, but more are expected to come in. Some 87 disputes relating to small businesses in the Lismore area were passed to FOS from the NSW Small Business Commissioner. The businesses had claims denied due to lack of flood cover. About 80 of the business disputes are now resolved, Mr Price says, with 25-30% receiving either partial or total payment for their losses. “It is important that the industry looks very carefully at the initial cause of inundation and doesn’t just rely on the hydrologists’ report,” he told “We conducted site visits and spoke to the people affected, and the industry should be doing the same.” The total number of insurance disputes received by FOS between July 1 last year and January 31 increased 9% to 7402, but the key figure of disputes accepted reduced by 6% to 4521. “This means the industry is resolving 35% of matters in the first stage,” Mr Price said. “This improvement of industry handling of disputes is good to see.” The forum also discussed the transition to the forthcoming Australian Financial Complaints Authority, the royal commission on financial services, unfair contract terms, insurers’ approach to vulnerable customers and add-on insurance remediation. 

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