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AFCA backs goodwill gesture and 'stress' refusal

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The Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) has backed a goodwill gesture by OnePath to refund the entire premium of a life policy after a customer claimed it had breached its promise to respond quickly to an enquiry.

The customer had held a total and permanent disability, trauma and income protection policy with OnePath since 2015, which promised a 24-hour response time for any claim. She made an enquiry about the policy early last year, and the insurer didn’t get back to her until nearly three weeks later.

She then claimed this was a breach of its promise – despite the query not being claim-related – and sought a refund of all premiums paid, which OnePath agreed to. She only provided her bank account details to facilitate the refund more than three months later. OnePath then refunded all premiums, which amounted to $8894.77.

The customer then claimed she should be financially compensated $5000 for “stress and inconvenience” because it took too long to process the refund. Her partner also claims he declined work opportunities to pursue the matter as her representative. OnePath refused to pay this compensation.

In its determination, AFCA says the offer of a refund was fair and reasonable as a goodwill offer because it settles all claims for compensation for financial and non-financial loss. It similarly agreed with OnePath’s decision to refuse to pay the $5000 compensation.

AFCA says it will only consider compensation for stress, inconvenience, anxiety and disappointment in limited circumstances.

“AFCA expects complainants to be moderately robust in the way in which they deal with a problem and to bear the ordinary and normal degree of inconvenience associated with correcting an unexpected problem,” it says.