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Insurers fight misconduct accusations

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Insurers have hit back at allegations of misconduct made during the Hayne royal commission hearings.

Several general insurers were alleged to have mishandled claims, mis-sold add-on insurance or disregarded the need for compliance.

Commissioner Kenneth Hayne was invited by his counsellors assisting to find the companies that appeared before him – Allianz, IAG, Youi and Suncorp – had engaged in misconduct.

But in submissions published today by the commission, the insurers have come out fighting.

Suncorp argues it did not engage in misconduct in relation to allegedly misleading advertising of “full replacement” policies.

It says the commission did not hear all the relevant facts and that “a finding of misleading conduct as an instance of misconduct – especially insofar as there is any suggestion that it was done deliberately for financial gain – is not lightly to be found”.

Suncorp also denies breaching the duty to act with utmost good faith in the handling of a claim which saw a vulnerable family left in an unsafe property.

“Such a finding is serious,” it says. “The [royal] commission should not accept the submission.”

However the insurer does admit breaching the General Insurance Code of Practice in relation to the claim.

Youi says neither of the two case studies involving the company that were aired before the royal commission supported a finding that it engaged in misconduct.

It says the royal commission did not provide sufficient context, such as existing building problems, limitations on availability of suitable tradespeople in remote locations and the volume of claims being handled.

“These two case studies are not only unrepresentative of the vast majority of cases dealt with by Youi, particularly following natural disasters, but are case studies which counsel assisting has sought to portray in the worst possible light,” the submission says.

“No attention was given to the many claims that were dealt with in an outstanding manner by Youi in difficult circumstances or the care and attention that Youi tried to bring to those affected by these events.”

Youi says there were unacceptable delays in the completion of works, but the delays did not contravene the Code of Practice, and it is necessary to look at the handling of a claim “as a whole”.

IAG also says it did not engage in misconduct in relation to the sales of add-on insurance by its subsidiary, Swann.

“There is no basis on which the [royal] commission would find that Swann has engaged in misconduct in any of the ways submitted to be open by counsel assisting,” it says.

Allianz accepts it is open to the commission to find that it engaged in misconduct in relation to misleading content that was allowed to sit on its website for many years, and agrees it may have breached the Corporations Act in failing to report breaches to ASIC. But it disputes other misconduct allegations.

More details in our regular bulletin on Monday.