30 March 2020
Claims, assessment and repair services are continuing but insurance customers should expect delays as the industry struggles under the dual weight of the COVID-19 pandemic and billions of dollars in claims from the summer catastrophes, the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) says.
Claims settlements and the sales and renewals of most products, along with most back-office functions, are ongoing, although overseas call centres have mostly been shut down by local authorities.
That means Australian staff are taking on this extra load, usually working from home, so call delays may be longer than normal.
“It is inevitable many customers will experience delays and interruptions,” ICA spokesman Campbell Fuller said.
“This is not business as usual. Far from it. COVID-19 is having a dramatic impact on the operations of most businesses due to social distancing and shutdown rules.”
He says insurers are committed to helping their customers through the COVID-19 pandemic, but government measures aimed at stalling the spread of the disease are having a dramatic impact on the operations of many businesses, including insurance firms.
It comes at a time insurers and brokers are already under an “extraordinary burden” from more than 252,000 claims worth $4.6 billion following the summer natural disasters.
Mr Fuller says ICA has welcomed general insurance being classified an “essential service” during the COVID-19 crisis and is seeking further clarity from the federal, state and territory governments on essential services arrangements.
For example, ICA wants to know whether insurance workers are able to cross state borders without having to enter isolation.
Insurance is not listed as a restricted activity or business, so insurers can continue to provide services and support to Australians. Most insurance business operations and urgent services will remain available during shutdowns, even if restrictions on the community are toughened.
ICA says its members are seeking to help SME and household customers on an individual basis, especially those experiencing hardship.
Repair and rebuilding work on properties that have been damaged or destroyed over spring and summer is mostly continuing, although some builders are no longer available and supplies of some building and motor vehicle materials are scarce due to disruption in China.
If shutdown measures are ramped up, insurers still expect emergency building repairs to continue. Motor vehicle claims and repairs, and other assistance, should be maintained for vulnerable Australians and for those involved in delivering critical services during the pandemic, ICA says.