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Auto-renewal wrangle: insurer must refund six years of premium

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An Allianz customer has won a premium refund after the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) decided he had not given permission for a landlord policy to automatically renew.

The complainant took out cover in 2014 when he purchased a new property, and Allianz renewed the policy every year through to last year.

But the insured says this was done without his knowledge and consent and that he intended to let the policy lapse after 12 months.

He didn’t insure the property with anyone else and paid various amounts to repair damage over the years, until he sold it last year.

“He says if he thought he had insurance, he would have lodged claims with the insurer for this damage,” AFCA said. “He provided evidence of this damage as part of his submissions.”

The complainant says he was unaware the insurer continued to take monthly payments from his account and thought the deductions were for motor insurance on a leased vehicle.

He had changed his address since the policy was initiated and all renewal documents were sent to his old address, and not issued by email.

AFCA says the initial policy documents did not inform the complainant that cover would be renewed automatically, and although the renewal documents did, the complainant never received these.

Allianz says that by sending renewal information to the complainant’s last known address it complied with its obligations.

But AFCA says the insurer still failed to inform the complainant of the automatic renewal in the initial documents.

“Whilst I acknowledge the complainant failed to update the insurer about his new address, there is no reason for him to believe the policy would automatically renew,” the AFCA ombudsman writes.

“The first reference to this is in the 2015 renewal document, which says if there are no changes, the insurer will continue to deduct monthly premium payments.

“Given the complainant took out a policy for a 12-month period and paid the premium for this time, I accept this should be the extent of his cover. He had no reason to believe it would automatically renew. He elected to not have his home insured.

“I do not agree it is fair that the complainant should be compelled to accept an automated renewal of the cover. He had never been previously informed of this or agreed to such a condition or process.”

Allianz was ordered to refund premiums deducted after 2015, plus interest.

Click here to read the full ruling.