Insurance Brokers form a very small proportion of AFCA complaints: Emma Curtis

AFCA's Emma Curtis, spoke to NIBA Editor Tanaya Das on her immediate priorities regarding insurance brokers

Written on 13 October, 2021
Tanaya Das

The Lead Ombudsman Insurance at the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA), Emma Curtis, spoke to NIBA Editor Tanaya Das on her immediate priorities regarding insurance brokers.

Curtis’s appointment was announced by AFCA in May this year, and she started at the dispute resolution body in August. She said, “My immediate priorities are to get to know AFCA at this key point in its lifecycle – how it operates, its people, and its strategic priorities. I’m also focusing on meeting key insurer and broker AFCA members, to help me understand their perspectives and priorities. And I want to stay connected with consumer representatives to make sure I understand their views on how AFCA is performing in its insurance dispute resolution role.”

Curtis joined AFCA from the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) and takes over from John Price, who retired as Lead Ombudsman Insurance after 17 years as a senior decision-maker with AFCA and its predecessor schemes.

She reiterated that AFCA knows that brokers play a key role in helping customers understand their policies and assisting them through the claims handling process, “What we offer brokers, apart from fair and independent dispute resolution, is the opportunity to delve into the decisions that come out of our general insurance work and to use insights from those decisions to help them help their customers. We publish our determinations on our website so they’re readily accessible.”

You can access AFCA determinations on the AFCA website, afca.org.au/what-to-expect/search-published-decisions, and you can also access important AFCA determinations curated by NIBA’s Legal Advisor, Mark Radford in every issue of the Insurance Adviser magazine in the Professionalism section.

Curtis added that disputes about brokers form a very small proportion of the complaints AFCA receives every year, “About 1 percent of the 70,000 complaints we received last year over all financial services and products. A large proportion of broker complaints were resolved in the early, more informal stages of our dispute resolution process, and we applaud brokers for their part in that.”

She further remarked that AFCA’s aim with any complaint is to help the two sides of a dispute find a way forward at an early stage in our process, “When we refer a complaint back to a firm for another look, or when we get parties together for conciliation. Early resolution means reduced cost and time for brokers and their clients, and it’s always our preferred outcome, though in about 10 percent of general insurance cases we do go to a formal determination.”

“Out of interest, the four most complained about products in broker disputes this year have been motor vehicle comprehensive insurance, home building, commercial property, and consumer credit insurance, and the most common issues were denial of the claim, delay in claim handling, service quality and claim amount.”

The latest version of the AFCA Datacube outlines complaints data from 1 July 2020 – 30 June 2021 and the statistics support Curtis’s statements. AFCA received 67613 complaints across all jurisdictions in the current period, of these 310 complaints related to general insurance brokers, an increase on the previous year. In comparison, AFCA received 13,805 complaints about general insurers.

Despite the increase, broker complaints still accounted for less than 1 percent of all complaints received by AFCA. Most complaints were resolved at the case management stage with only 18 complaints requiring a determination. Of those that reached the determination stage the majority were found in favour of the financial firm.

You can access read the full interview with Curtis in the October issue of the Insurance Adviser magazine here. She will be speaking at the 2021.2 NIBA Convention in February 2022, and attendees can look forward to insights from her in relation to the recent AFCA experience with insurance brokers. You can register for #NIBA2021 here.