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Insurance customers double their complaints to ACCC

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Complaints about insurance have jumped 104% so far this year, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) reveals.

Insurance is now the fifth-most complained about product, with first place taken by tourism and accommodation (up 589%), passenger transport (up 358%), sport and recreation (up 134%) and fuel retailing (up 121%).

The ACCC says the “limited protections” of travel insurance policies which commonly exclude force majeure events such as pandemics, is a “complicating factor” as consumers’ only recourse is to attempt to recover funds from travel agents and suppliers directly.

“The situation with respect to travel cancellations has been complicated further by the majority of travel insurance products excluding cancellations resulting from the pandemic,” the regulator says, adding it has been liaising with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) regarding travel insurance.

“Concerns have been raised by consumers regarding their ability to claim on travel insurance for cancelled travel, as well as limitations in accessing non-essential services under private health insurance hospital and extras cover due to COVID-19 restrictions.”

The new figures show the ACCC received 109,446 complaints in the first 10 months of this year, with COVID-19-related issues dominating. Common misconduct complained about during the pandemic included businesses misleading consumers about their right to a refund, or deducting cancellation fees from refunds.

Australians are not automatically entitled to a refund when cancellations occur due to government restrictions, and so it is the terms and conditions of each individual booking that determines whether consumers are entitled to a refund or credit note.

“The economic disruption from COVID-19 has led to a huge volume of varied and complex consumer law issues,” ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said.