Enquiries made to the Insurance & Financial Services Ombudsman Scheme (IFSO Scheme) have reached record highs for three months in a row following the effects of the Auckland floods and Cyclone Gabrielle.
The scheme, which provides a free resolution service to consumers who have complaints about their insurers and financial service providers, received a record 569 enquiries in May, although March and April also reached record numbers.
IFSO Karen Stevens said that insurance delays can be very frustrating, and that the volume from the twin climate disasters has also made an impact for customers who have claim enquiries unrelated to both weather events. That said, the IFSO stated its understanding that insurers are focused on claims related to the twin events, meaning that those unrelated will not be dealt as quickly as they usually would be.
“For people whose houses have been made uninhabitable or who have had major damage to their vehicle or contents, delays can be immensely stressful and upsetting. With temporary accommodation allowances due to run out for many people too, it’s a very difficult situation for those affected. Insurers can move forward with some claims now that the government has designated categories for affected homes, however these will still take some time to work through, especially complex cases,” Stevens said.
Stevens also said that there are a few things that people can expect from their own insurers, even though there is allowance in the Fair Insurance Code for delays due to catastrophes or disasters.
“Insurers have a responsibility to update customers every 20 business days, or at another agreed time interval, until their claim is resolved. And if there are vulnerable circumstances that need to be considered, insurers should be identifying and responding to customers on this basis,” Stevens said.
Stevens also noted that there are insurers who have different teams in place to deal with cyclone-related concerns. She also brought up the New Zealand Claims Resolutions Service that provides homeowners with free and independent insurance-related advice.
“Customers should contact their insurers online or via email, to avoid busy phone lines. They should also inform their insurer if they have vulnerable circumstances that need to be considered. If customers are not satisfied with the response they get, they can get in touch with the IFSO Scheme by visiting www.ifso.nz or by calling 0800 888 202,” Stevens said.
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