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Liberty Specialty Markets

Insurers accused of selling travel cover with illegal exclusions

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Travel insurers have been accused of breaking the law by selling travel insurance with blanket mental health exclusions, and then failing to indemnify customers.

A Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission report published today says its findings are based on an examination from July 2017 to April last year of more than 365,000 policies that were sold with terms that discriminated against mentally ill customers.

Allianz, Suncorp and Nib-owned World Nomads Group (WNG), which have a combined 37% market share and are party insurers in the probe, were unable to establish that they could rely on the data exception under Victoria’s Equal Opportunity Act to lawfully discriminate.

The law prohibits unlawful discrimination by insurers against people with disabilities, including mental illness, but there is an exception allowing a limitation on cover if the insurer has adequate statistical data or reason to support their actions.

“All three party insurers unlawfully discriminated,” the commission says.

“During the investigation period, Allianz, Suncorp and WNG had a legal obligation under the Equal Opportunity Act to not discriminate against people with a mental health condition in the provision of travel insurance.

“The information provided to the investigation by [the three insurers] did not demonstrate a sufficient basis to claim the data exception for insurers.”

The three insurers have since committed to remove or have removed mental health exclusions in their travel polices. Zurich/Cover-More the other non-party insurer in the probe, removed the exclusions in June 2017.

“While this investigation focused on three of Australia’s biggest travel insurers, the findings and recommendations are equally relevant to any other insurers that maintain discriminatory policies,” Commissioner Kristen Hilton told insuranceNEWS.com.au.

“The report is an important catalyst for systemic change and points to the need for travel insurers to ensure they comply with the Equal Opportunity Act, just like any other law.”

Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) CEO Rob Whelan says the industry’s revised code will probably contain provisions relating to mental health as insurers look to build on the improvements achieved since the investigation began.

“Updating the code is one of a number of steps ICA and the industry are taking to improve customer outcomes in this important area of public health,” he said.