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Industry backs law reforms to protect domestic violence victims

Life insurers have urged authorities to strengthen regulatory protections for family and domestic violence victims.

The Council of Australian Life Insurers says the current framework limits the industry’s ability to protect victims and is being exploited by perpetrators.

CALI cites examples, based on its members’ experiences with abuse cases, in which perpetrators have used the laws to threaten, abuse or control victims.

It says various legislative provisions require notifications to be given to customers on policies they hold. But reconciling these requirements with the need to withhold a victim-survivor’s location and other details from an alleged abuser can cause difficulties in the case of joint and cross-policy ownership.

CALI says most regulatory settings are important customer protections, but changes may be needed to consider the needs of domestic violence victims.

“We believe that the current regulatory framework makes it too difficult for victim-survivors to obtain the outcomes they want, or for life insurers to provide the level of assistance that victim-survivors should receive,” the industry body says in a submission to a parliamentary inquiry.

“We are also cautious that inappropriate responses to the issues set out in this submission could  inadvertently dilute consumer protections, and at worst could open new avenues for committing abuse through life insurance products.

“CALI therefore believes it would be appropriate for the government to consult on appropriate measures to address the issues discussed in this submission, and to seek input from a wide range of stakeholders, including victim-survivors with lived experience, their advisers and family members, community advocacy groups, life insurers, lawyers and legal bodies.”

Federal parliament’s Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services is examining financial services regulatory frameworks in relation to financial abuse, and expects to report by October.

CALI says its members are reviewing their policies and exploring ways to provide more support for people affected by family violence and financial abuse. 

In February the council’s board instructed the peak body to review and update industry guidance on family and domestic violence. 

“CALI members have agreed to enhance this guidance by providing more detail on the support that insurers will provide to victim-survivors, including revising definitions of financial abuse and coercive control, and expanding family and domestic violence commitments,” the submission says. 

Click here for more from the submission.