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Helen Rowell to chair general insurance code of practice review

A General Insurance Code of Practice independent review starting today will be chaired by former Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) Deputy Chair Helen Rowell.

The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) says the review will be conducted in two phases to align with any recommendations from the Federal Parliamentary inquiry into insurers’ responses to the 2022 floods.

The three-member review panel also includes former Consumer Action Law Centre CEO Gerard Brody and Paul Muir, an industry panel member for the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) who has more than 38 years’ experience in the insurance sector.

The code of practice was introduced in 1994 as a voluntary code and has been regularly updated, most recently in 2020. It must be reviewed every three years.

ICA CEO Andrew Hall says each of the three-person panel brings considerable experience and their appointments recognise the diversity of skills and backgrounds needed for an independent review.

“The ICA and insurers look forward to working with the review panel to ensure that our industry code remains relevant and effective in supporting and protecting customers,” Mr Hall said.

“I know the panel will conduct a comprehensive and robust review of the code, and that their findings and recommendations will help make the code even more effective in supporting and protecting consumers.”

Ms Rowell left APRA in the middle of this year after leading major reforms across the superannuation and insurance industries during two decades with the regulator. Previously she was a partner at the international consulting firm Towers Perrin and President of the Institute of Actuaries of Australia.

In an interview on the APRA website in June, Ms Rowell noted that putting customers at the centre of business strategy, and having business practices, accountabilities and incentives that align with that customer focus, is more likely to deliver sustainable outcomes.

The code review first phase will focus on topics not directly related to the floods, such as support for vulnerable customers and the interaction between the code and existing laws, and governance, with initial findings and recommendations to be delivered by June 30.

The second phase will focus on flood-related topics, such as responses required when a catastrophe occurs, with findings due by June 30 2025.

The Federal Parliament House of Representatives Economics Committee inquiry into the floods is set to report by the end of September, while the ICA commissioned Deloitte report into the insurers’ response has already recommended an overhaul of the extraordinary catastrophe definition in the code of practice.

The scope of the review includes support for customers in financial need, especially in the catastrophe context, and issues around vulnerability.

It may take into account Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) good practice findings, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) recommendations in the Northern Australia Insurance Inquiry report and any relevant Code Governance Committee recommendations.

The interaction of the code with existing laws and whether changes are needed will also be considered, having regard to Hayne royal commission reforms such as product design and distribution obligations, the inclusion of claims handling as a financial service and the deferred sales model for add-on insurance.

ICA says the review panel will consult stakeholders, including the general insurance industry, ASIC, APRA, AFCA, the Code Governance Committee, and consumer representatives.