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Consumer focus strengthened in revised NZ code

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Commitments to act transparently, with integrity and in utmost good faith have been made clearer in the revised Insurance Council of New Zealand (ICNZ) code of practice that took effect on Wednesday.

The Fair Insurance Code includes an expectation that insurers will develop, market and sell their products responsibly, and provides more guidance to consumers on how to complain and timeframes for responses.

The privacy section has been rewritten and a logo introduced and trademarked for display on member websites and certain documents.

ICNZ CEO Tim Grafton says promotion of the code is being stepped up and it will be translated into all of New Zealand’s official languages, with copies available in Te Reo Maori and as an audio version.

“Our annual research tells us that only one in four people are aware of the code,” he said. “To address this issue, we have mandated the inclusion and promotion of the logo on all member websites, claim and complaints materials.”

The latest code, which updates the 2016 version, is overseen by a compliance committee comprising independent legal experts Sir David Carruthers, David McGee and David Caygill.

Sanctions, which are the same as under ICNZ member rules, include membership termination, imposing a fine of up to $NZ100,000 ($92,275) and requiring public acknowledgment of a breach.

The latest version updates the 2016 document and comes as life and general insurance cultures comes under greater scrutiny in New Zealand and Australia.

Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Kris Faafoi says the release of the strengthened code comes at a pivotal period given regulatory moves and the coronavirus emergency.

“It is important that in these times we keep the consumer at the centre of the insurance industry’s work,” he said.