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Consumer group wary of Suncorp home repair partnership

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A consumer rights group has raised concerns over Suncorp’s ground-breaking deal with Victorian-based HomeRepair.

Suncorp says the joint venture, which follows an 18-month trial, could result in repair times being halved for homes damaged by natural disasters.

The insurer says new technologies and streamlined processes have delivered higher customer satisfaction and lower costs, and repairs will be randomly audited and covered by a lifetime guarantee.

It says the venture, which will target repairs below $10,000, follows its success in setting up similar partnerships for automotive repairs.

But the Financial Rights Legal Centre says any changes to the way insurers deal with claims are concerning and must be clearly advertised, “not buried in disclosure statements that consumers do not read”.

The centre says calls to its service indicate some customers are “deeply unsatisfied” with Suncorp’s automotive repair joint ventures.

“Use of innovative repair methods without proper explanation will lead to some consumers being dissatisfied,” Principal Solicitor Alexandra Kelly told insuranceNEWS.com.au.

“Already, customers become disgruntled when they provide their own quote, but are advised that another builder, who they generally don’t know or don’t like, quotes for less.

“From a competition aspect, it will take work away from local suppliers.”

A Suncorp spokesman told insuranceNEWS.com.au it will continue to honour “fair and reasonable” quotes obtained by customers, but the vast majority were happy to use a recommended repairer.

The spokesman says insurers only account for less than 1% of home building and repair work nationally, and HomeRepair will engage local tradespeople to carry out many elements of the work.

He says Suncorp organises 500,000 vehicle repairs a year and customers rate them highly for service and quality.

Suncorp says it is proud of standards set by its joint ventures and will be transparent about the arrangements.

“We’re not aware of any other insurers investing in a home repair business such as this,” the spokesman said.

The venture will begin operations in Melbourne, before expanding into Brisbane before the 2015/16 storm season, and then into other capital cities.