Probe into insurance premiums
Broome property owners have welcomed a high-profile inquiry into high insurance costs across northern Australia, which includes a public meeting in town for people to air their views.
The Federal Government has told the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to use its extensive powers to expose why residential building, contents, and strata policies have skyrocketed and whether providers acted ethically in pricing.
As part of the probe, the ACCC has invited the public to make submissions and attend a number of its meetings in affected towns and cities.
One of them is due to be held at the Oaks Hotel in Broome at 5.30pm on Wednesday, November 29.
The public will have direct input to the ACCC taskforce at the meetings taking place this month and in December.
ACCC deputy chairwoman Delia Rickard said the forums would allow the commission to hear directly from people in northern Australia about their experiences of the insurance market.
“Our inquiry aims to identify the barriers that prevent consumers from accessing affordable, appropriate and comprehensive insurance,” she said.
Ms Rickard said the ACCC would use its compulsory information gathering powers to directly access insurers.
“This is something other inquiries have not been able to do,” she said.
“We are also seeking consumer and industry input on price, policy coverage, and any barriers to consumers getting a better deal.”
Broome-based Phoenix Insurance Brokers manager Clare Smith says the inquiry could go deeper into looking at all property risks, because both commercial and residential property owners were affected by the reduced number of insurers in the region.
“It is our hope that the inquiry also examines the current government support for North West communities,” she said.
“Insurers provide premiums based on the relevant risk proposed to them and a reduced risk profile should reduce the premium required.”
Real Estate Institute of WA Kimberley chairman Tony Hutchinson said high premiums had led to financial struggles for home owners.
“It’s a vicious cycle at the moment, so an inquiry is certainly needed,” he said.
“There are a limited number of companies prepared to provide cover in the region, so it appears insurance costs have become very high, which puts even more pressure on property owners struggling to meet mortgage repayments.”
Durack MHR Melissa Price said the inquiry would be able to dig deeper than a previous Federal investigation in 2015.
“The ACCC’s remit will be to determine whether or not the insurance providers have acted ethically in the marketplace,” she said.
The ACCC is exploring insurance prices and policy breakdown costs, market competitiveness in northern Australia and how consumers interact with markets, and potential barriers to consumers making wellinformed choices.
Submissions are due on December 21 and can be emailed to insurance@ accc.gov.au.