Insurance Industry Gets Dubious 'Shonky' Honor from Australian Watchdog Group

Insurance agents get called plenty of things, but chances are, “shonky” is a new one.

Australian consumer-watchdog group Choice has named several insurance companies in its annual Shonky Awards, which recognize products and services that the group judges to be dodgy or of highly questionable value.

As the Queensland, NSW and Victorian floodwaters receded following the December 2010 deluge that left thousands without homes, thousands of policyholders who believed they were covered against such losses found their claims rejected.

According to Choice, “insurers made it all but impossible to know whether they were covered for flood or not—or exactly what a 'flood' is.” When policyholders began seeing their claims denied in April 2011, RACQ topped the list,followed by NRMA, CGU, AAMI, Allianz, QBE, and Comminsure, according to Queensland Legal Aid.

“At least 20 other insurers had also denied claims at that point. Seven months on, about 8660 homeowners have been knocked back, or 15 percent of claims,” Choice reports.

Fortunately, not all Australian insurance carriers were so lemon-esque, according to the watchdog group. These included Suncorp Insurance, “whose track record for paying claims after the same floods is laudable,” Choice says, and RACV, which “has also been making compassionate payments to hundreds of affected Victorian customers.”

"Insurance salespeople had apparently been making sales without telling people there's a big hole in their policy,” Queensland Legal Aid consumer protection lawyer Catherine Uhr tells Choice. “A lot of people thought they had no risk. I'm a lawyer who has been focusing on flood insurance since the floods happened, and there are some policies that I read and re-read and still don't know what they are on about."  

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