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SME insurance complaints spark inquiry

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The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman has called an inquiry to investigate insurance practices and cover availability after receiving complaints about policy denials and soaring prices.

Ombudsman Kate Carnell says concerns have been highlighted about classes including trade credit cover, public liability and insurance for continuity of business operations.

“We fully understand that there are some challenges in the insurance industry globally in underwriting, but the reality is this is impacting upon small business significantly,” she told insuranceNEWS.com.au.

The terms of reference include coverage denials, policy exclusions and how they are communicated, use of definitions that may create de facto exclusions and the fitness for purpose of market offerings.

The role of brokers, unfair contract terms, dispute resolution frameworks and the effectiveness of relevant codes of conduct and legislation are also included.

The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) says it will assist the ombudsman with her inquiry.

“Insurers continue to support Australia’s small business sector through the pandemic and natural disasters, on top of normal business operations,” spokesman Campbell Fuller told insuranceNEWS.com.au.

National Insurance Brokers Association CEO Dallas Booth says he is not aware of poor behaviour by insurers, but underwriters have been reviewing their risk appetite and pricing, particularly in areas such as public liability.

“It is a very difficult and challenging insurance market at the present time and brokers have been working very hard over the past few months, particularly for the June renewals,” he said.

Ms Carnell has called for those who have experienced issues to complete an online survey, and says submissions are also welcome from insurance industry stakeholders.

A final report is expected to be released before the end of the year.