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ESL Monitor set to bow out – but is there a sting in the tail?

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NSW Emergency Services Levy Monitor Allan Fels will close down his office at the end of next month, but he could take one final swipe at the industry as he investigates a “top four insurer” over alleged prohibited conduct.

Professor Fels made himself hugely unpopular with insurers during his tenure, which believe the Monitor role became unnecessary when the abolition of the levy was abandoned in 2017.

The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) has previously accused Professor Fels of overstepping by commenting on issues such as the “loyalty tax” on renewing customers.

The Monitor’s website confirms the closure of his office on June 30.

It also lists his “achievements”, including the return of $14.7 million of over-collected ESL and a requirement for insurers to include the previous year’s premium on renewal notices.

But he’s not done yet.

His last published report, for the September 2019 quarter, says the Monitor has launched “a major investigation” into a top-four insurance company “due to possible prohibited conduct”.

“Information provided by the company in response to a statutory notice has indicated there may be significant data integrity issues,” the report says. “The Monitor has expanded his investigation to address these issues.”

A spokesman for the Monitor told no further comment will be made “at this time” but that two quarterly reports are still unpublished.

He also said a summary of findings from consultations on how the levy is calculated and collected will be made available once these final reports are published.

ICA has urged the NSW Government to reconsider reform of the levy, which insurers believe contributes to underinsurance and non-insurance.

As reported by yesterday, ICA believes a more than 20% increase on the levy for 2020/21 will be “a severe and unnecessary blow” in the current economic climate.

“The insurance industry has worked cooperatively with the Monitor, even though the collapse of the reform process several years ago meant the Monitor’s role was no longer required,” spokesman Campbell Fuller said.