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Industry seeks clarity over Melbourne lockdown rules

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The insurance industry is seeking clarity from the Victorian Government over its stage four business restrictions for metropolitan Melbourne that will kick in on Thursday for six weeks.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said yesterday many businesses will have to shut until September 13, but essential services like supermarkets and pharmacies will stay open. Insurance services with onsite operations must be closed, according to the government.

The Insurance Council of Australia says key services such as complaints handling, customer assistance and claims payments will continue to be provided, and it is in discussions with the Andrews Government to “clarify some aspects” of the rules.

Spokesman Campbell Fuller did not provide details of specific areas that were raised, but told insuranceNEWS.com.au the industry “believes essential insurance-related work will continue to be allowed”.

He says a government addendum of an approved list of financial products and services that are allowed during the stage four lockdown includes services to customers in hardship, vulnerable customers, call centres for customer transaction handling, enquiries and complaints.

These operations, if provided onsite, must be conducted according to a COVID safe plan.

The National Insurance Brokers Association (NIBA) also wants more clarity from the Victorian government, particularly in the areas of building repairs and rebuilding of properties.

“We know construction can continue but on a very limited basis so things are going to be slowed down,” NIBA CEO Dallas Booth told insuranceNEWS.com.au. “Some repairs will be able to continue, some rebuilding can continue but we just need to be clear about what the government is prepared to permit and what has to slow down.”

IAG and Suncorp expect minimal disruptions from the lockdown, as most staff have been working remotely since March when the first phase of restrictions were introduced.

A spokesman for Suncorp says the business has been using different assessing techniques including virtual claims assessments, webchat capabilities, online claims functionality and drones to complete roof inspections.

“These will continued to be utilised as we work through the impact of stage four lockdowns,” the spokesman told insuranceNEWS.com.au.

IAG says the business has a dedicated COVID-19 response team to support a small number of staff in Victoria who have an “essential need” to be onsite physically.

The use of technology has also helped the business in areas such as loss assessments.

“If a virtual assessment isn’t possible, we will be asking our assessors and customers appropriate screening questions before we visit a property,” the spokesman said. “Our assessors will also use appropriate personal protective equipment and follow the appropriate health and safety advice of authorities.”

MD of claims service provider Proclaim Jon Broome says he does not expect the stage four lockdown to have a major impact on the provision of services to clients.

“For all intents and purposes they should not see any difference,” he told insuranceNEWS.com.au. “For us, it isn’t a huge adjustment as the vast majority of our 50 or so team in Melbourne are already working from home.

“We have already developed communication protocols, data analytics and remote working policies to achieve a balance between productivity and wellbeing.”