On 25 May 2017, the Treasurer, the Hon Scott Morrison MP, directed the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to hold an inquiry into the supply of home, contents and strata insurance products to consumers in northern Australia (the inquiry).
The ACCC has released an issues paper for its Northern Australia Insurance Inquiry for public comment on a range of issues, including:
- insurance pricing, the key cost components of insurance, and insurer profitability;
- the competitiveness of markets for insurance in northern Australia;
- how consumers interact with insurance markets including any barriers to consumers making well informed choices;
- other regulatory issues relevant to the insurance industry; and
- the role that mitigation can play in improving affordability.
The ACCC has also provided a corresponding short version of the issues paper, which focuses on consumer issues. Submissions on the issues paper should be sent to the ACCC by 21 December 2017.
As part of the inquiry, the ACCC proposes to provide the Treasurer with a first interim report on 30 November 2018, a second interim report on 30 November 2019 and a final report on 30 November 2020.
As recent events have demonstrated, Northern Australia is vulnerable to significant environmental disaster, particularly cyclones. The substantial increases in insurance premiums across northern Australia since 2010-11 have drawn much concern from locals and growing scrutiny from governments. This inquiry differs from previous inquiries in that the ACCC will issue notices that require specified parties to provide information relevant to the inquiry. This will require the provision of information that past reviews have been unable to access. Additionally, this inquiry focuses on competition, consumer and regulation protection through an examination of the industry and behavior of market participants. The ACCC’s goal is to assist governments and industry stakeholders to address insurance affordability, promote better informed and more competitive insurance markets and make a difference for consumers in northern Australia.
MORE DETAIL ON THE FEEDBACK ISSUES
Costs, premiums and profits for insurance in Northern Australia
The ACCC has asked members of the insurance industry to provide views on the pricing and availability of insurance in northern Australia; the key cost components of supplying insurance; the profitability of insurers in northern Australian insurance markets over time; and the extent to which profits are commensurate with risk.
The competitiveness of markets for insurance in Northern Australia
This section of the paper focuses on the supply-side of the market to assess competitiveness for home, contents and strata insurance in northern Australia. It explores the various participants involved in supplying insurance products to consumers and their relationships, the ways insurers currently compete for consumers, and the existence and extent of any potential barriers to entry, exit and expansion. Generally speaking, this section also explores a range of issues related to how consumers interact with the market.
Consumer experience with insurance
The ACCC states that this section is an opportunity for consumers across northern Australia to share their experiences of what is important in their decisions about insurance generally, how information was obtained, and whether such information was easy to understand. The ACCC also want to scope the difficulty of getting insurance in northern Australian towns and inquire whether consumers have felt the pressure of rising prices or had an experience with switching insurers or making a claim. Financial counsellors and consumer advocates are believed to have valuable insights to share, although responses from all stakeholders are welcome.
The ACCC states that the role of mitigation has been a significant area of interest in recent years and this chapter is an opportunity for stakeholders to share their views on the role mitigation can play in improving affordability for consumers.
This section focuses on how regulation could, or should, evolve to better address concerns about the affordability and availability of home, contents and strata insurance across northern Australia. This is a broad issue and broad feedback is welcome. Areas of recent interest include unfair contract terms, taxation and data sharing. The ACCC states that this is particularly an opportunity for industry and regulators to provide their views, although they encourage comment from all stakeholders.