IAG and Suncorp join unique domestic violence initiative

"An insurance policy is no place for financial or other types of abuse," says CEO

IAG and Suncorp join unique domestic violence initiative

Insurance News

By Daniel Wood

Two of Australia’s major insurers have joined a unique national domestic violence campaign that aims to stop financial abuse. The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) has also told Insurance Business that it’s currently working with members “to further build out our approach to tackling product weaponisation.”

Insurance giants Suncorp and Insurance Australia Group (IAG) have joined the first of its kind campaign, respect and protect, that’s designed by social enterprise Flequity Ventures. Twenty-one (21) major firms including banks, telecoms and the two insurers are supporting the initiative that launches today.

A media release from Flequity’s director Catherine Fitzpatrick said the aim is to “disrupt the rise of financial abuse in Australia.”

Lisa Harrison (pictured above), Suncorp’s Group CEO for consumer insurance, said her firm acknowledges the impact financial abuse can have on customers, “including the misuse of financial products and service to cause harm.”

“Suncorp is taking steps to update our financial abuse and inappropriate behaviour terms and conditions to reflect that a bank account and an insurance policy is no place for financial or other types of abuse and using them in this way can have serious impacts,” she said.

IAG’s group executive for People Performance & Reputation, Christine Stasi (pictured immediately below) said it’s important to support domestic abuse victim-survivors.

“It is critical that IAG takes a leading role through its customer brands including NRMA Insurance, to help eliminate financial abuse and support victim-survivors,” said Stasi. “We continue to modify our insurance policies across our brands and products to reduce their potential for weaponisation and misuse.”

A Flequity resource document details the commitments made by the 21 firms. Suncorp and IAG both pledged to update insurance terms and conditions.

Conduct of Others clauses – who’s next?

However, so far, only three insurance firms: Suncorp, IAG/NRMA and Allianz, have adopted Conduct of Others clauses in their insurance policies. 90 insurers operate in Australia.

“Perpetrators misuse services like telecommunications, banks, insurance, superannuation, energy, water and technology to threaten victim-survivors or accrue debts in their name, leaving them financially decimated,” said Fitzpatrick, who is also adjunct associate Professor at UNSW’s School of Social Sciences. “We want that to stop.”

She urged the public to get involved. One way, she said, is to acknowledge businesses that help “navigate financial abuse.”

ICA commits to combatting domestic violence

IB asked the ICA how its work to stop financial abuse is progressing?

“The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) welcomed the Centre for Women’s Economic Safety’s report on the misuse of general insurance products for financial abuse upon its release,” said a spokesperson. “The ICA strongly condemns financial abuse of any kind, and the insurance industry is committed under the General Insurance Code of Practice and supporting guide to address and combat domestic and family violence and financial abuse, as well as ensuring the safety and financial security of customers.”

The ICA said its current work includes “identifying areas of best practice across industries, including addressing Terms and Conditions and Conduct of Other’s Clauses.”

Violence against women is increasing

A survivor of domestic abuse recently contacted IB after reading Violence against women is increasing – what can insurers do?

“I don’t want this to happen to someone else,” said Anna (not her real name). “I want insurance policies to consider domestic violence.”

On the basis of an exclusion that’s also used by more than 85 other insurers in Australia, RAC initially refused her claim. However, the firm later made an ex-gratia offer.

Anna told IB that RAC’s claims process required evidence, obliging her, she said, to detail violent abuse in order to explain her damaged and missing property.

Anna appealed to the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) but said this agency also asked her to provide evidence.

She has since changed over her home contents coverage to an insurer with a Conduct Others clause.

What’s your insurance firm doing about domestic violence? Please tell us below

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