Director of the company Solve My Claim, David Keane was in the Whitsundays last week.
Director of the company Solve My Claim, David Keane was in the Whitsundays last week. Peter Carruthers

Royal Commission to hear from TC Debbie victims in September

THIS week the Royal Commission into misconduct of the finance sector was due to shift gears and investigate the insurance industry, however a change to the program meant testimony from policy holders has been delayed.

Submissions from policy holders affected by various disasters will now be presented during Round 6 of the hearings to be held in September.

One such testimony will include a victim of Cyclone Debbie who is yet to have a claim finalised 15 months on from the Category 4 tropical storm.

The Cannonvale couple is one of many, according to director of Solve My Claim, David Keane.

Mr Keane said his company - which specialises in helping policyholders navigate the often difficult road to getting a claim paid - has had on its books more than 230 claims worth $50million since the storm tore through the Whitsundays on March 28 last year.

He hoped submissions to the commission would reveal what he described as an "unfair” and "systemic failing” of the industry's obligation to premium paying customers.

Royal Commission submission

Mr Keane prepared an official submission to be heard at the probe into misconduct of the insurance industry in which he detailed alleged unfair practices including a lack of independent assessors, builders and other experts.

The submission was to be shelved ahead of this week's hearings but Mr Keane said there is a chance he will get the opportunity to speak when the probe reconvenes in September.

While much testimony is expected to focus on specific interactions with insurance companies, Mr Keane said his submission will offer a broader insight to the alleged failings of the industry as a whole.

"There is so many areas in which (the industry) is not fair and that's why you end up with so many hundreds who end up in the same situation,” he said.

Mr Keane said many loss adjusters and building inspectors indirectly worked for the insurance company who cherry picked reports that maximised existing damage to the property with a view to minimising the sum paid to the policy holder.

"There is a complete lack of objectivity and independence right throughout the claim process,” he said.

He said often the insurance company sent a loss adjuster to a damaged property who reported back to the company behind closed doors and the policy holder often did not know numerous adjusters had provided reports on the property.

There were also instances of companies using builders as assessors rather than employing an independent assessor because it saved the company money, Mr Keane said.

Lack of transparency

In his submission to the Royal Commission, Mr Keane stated insurers operated from behind a veil of secrecy leading up to the finalisation of claims and "almost always” refused to provide a breakdown to policy holders on the work quoted by repair contractors on the grounds that they were "commercially sensitive”.

But when the shoe was on the other foot insurers required policy holders to provide a breakdown of all costs to do with the claim determination process.

The Royal Commission next week will move to Darwin beginning on July 2 where hearing will focus on interactions between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and financial services entities.

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