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Insurers face royal commission misconduct findings

September 24, 2018

Four general insurers face possible misconduct findings after appearing before the Hayne royal commission last week.

In closing submissions, Counsel Assisting, Rowena Orr, said it is open to the commission to find Youi, Suncorp, IAG and Allianz all engaged in misconduct and behaviour falling below community standards and expectations.

Youi may have engaged in misconduct in relation to the handling of two natural disaster claims outlined to the commission, Ms Orr said.

She believes the insurer breached the General Insurance Code of Practice by not handling the claims “in an honest, fair and transparent manner”, by failing to respond to a catastrophe in “an efficient, professional and practical way and in a compassionate manner”, and by failing to respond properly to complaints.

It also may have engaged in misconduct by breaching its duty of “utmost good faith”.

Suncorp stands accused of misconduct in relation to its advertising of complete replacement cover, which falsely promised repairs or a rebuild “no matter the cost”.

The commission heard that after the Wye River bushfires of Christmas 2015, Suncorp “cash-settled claims based on the lowest quote that it obtained”.

The commission may also find Suncorp engaged in misconduct in relation to the mishandling of a catastrophe claim, Ms Orr said. Like Youi, this is based upon breaches of the code and the duty of utmost good faith.

IAG’s Swann Insurance faces misconduct findings as a result of its sale of inappropriate add-on insurance.

Swann “continued to authorise the sale of those products after becoming aware that ASIC held concerns about their product design and sales practices”, Counsel Assisting, Mark Costello, said.

The insurer may have breached the Corporations Act “by failing to do all things necessary to ensure that the financial services covered by its licence were provided efficiently, honestly and fairly”.

It may also have breached the National Credit Code by making payments to authorised representatives above the 20% cap on commissions.

Ms Orr said it is open to the commission to find Allianz engaged in misconduct in relation to misleading statements that were allowed to remain on its website.

Failing to report that misleading and deceptive conduct to ASIC could also have amounted to misconduct by breaching the Corporations Act, as could a failure to have an adequate compliance system in place in accordance with prudential standards.

The closing submissions marked the end of a gruelling week for general insurance executives, and the pain may not be over yet.

A report on “questions arising” from the insurance round of hearings will be published on Friday, and round seven, starting on November 19, will focus on policy issues raised by the first six rounds, potentially including insurance.

The commission’s final report will not be submitted to the Government until February next year 

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