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Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance

Suncorp, QBE, Allianz announce support measures

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Suncorp, QBE and Allianz have announced measures to help small businesses dealing with the coronavirus impact following clearance from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

The assistance is in line with action already announced by IAG and includes allowing small business customers to defer their premium payments for up to six months while insurance remains in place.

The three insurers, which together cover half the small business market, will also offer continuity of cover for SME policyholders where premises are vacant due to COVID-19.

They say in a joint statement they will “continue working closely with our broker partners on a range of hardship measures to support businesses, and acknowledge the critical role intermediaries play in commercial insurance”.

Suncorp CEO Insurance Gary Dransfield, QBE Australia Pacific CEO Vivek Bhatia and Allianz Australia CEO Richard Feledy say the measures will provide financial relief while maintaining coverage.

“We have laid a platform for the industry to sustainably support the tens of thousands of small businesses who have been heavily impacted by this crisis, which follows the summer of bushfires, floods and storms across the country,” they say in a joint statement.

The measures also include paying suppliers faster, refunding unused premiums for any policy SMEs need to cancel, and offering cash settlement to policyholders impacted by the summer’s natural disasters who would prefer to manage their own affairs.

The insurers are also offering travel insurance policyholders, including consumers, SMEs and larger businesses a credit or refund for any unused premium if they can no longer make their journeys, with no administration or cancellation fees applying.

The ACCC interim authorisation to work together to implement COVID-19 relief measures was granted to the three insurers as well as any other insurers or brokers who choose to take part, as long as they notify the regulator. An urgent application seeking the decision was lodged on Wednesday.

The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) has been working with members on measures that will give crucial support to customers. The ACCC ruling addresses concerns that development of a package may have been considered anti-competitive.

“ICA is pleased member companies are implementing measures to help SME customers that are experiencing financial hardship due to the COVID-19 crisis,” spokesman Campbell Fuller said today.

SMEs covered by the ACCC authorisation include businesses that employ fewer than 20 people, or 100 if a manufacturer, and have an annual turnover of less than $10 million.