Insurance woes: ‘We know that consumers are doing it tough’

The Insurance Council is not surprised to learn people are letting home insurance policies lapse.

Home insurance premiums have jumped by more than 30 percent in a year in parts of New Zealand, according to price monitoring data provided to Treasury last month.

Earlier this year, a Consumer NZ survey found 8 percent of respondents had let their home insurance policies lapse due to the high costs.

Insurance Council chief executive Kris Faafoi told Checkpoint like many sectors, rising inflation was affecting the industry.

It was normal to see a spike in the cost of premiums after severe weather such as the country experienced last year, he said.

“We know that consumers are doing it tough at the moment, and our simple message to them is if they’re finding things difficult to … contact their insurance company to see what might be done to ease their pressure there.”

Faafoi said in the long term there would be some “challenges” in insuring houses in parts of New Zealand.

In the short term, however, industry members had said they were expecting premium increases to be not as “severe” as in the past 12 months – “touch wood that we don’t have any other events”.

“But long term, we are worried about the impact of the increasing number and severity of the likes of weather that we’ve seen in the last 15 months, and we need to move as a country to do what we can to protect communities to make sure that insurance is still available and affordable in the future.”

The industry had been hearing anecdotally of people lowering the amount their homes were insured for.

“If we’re talking about people’s houses, we’re going to make sure that they are continuing to protect those. For most people, it’s their biggest asset.”

Options to make premiums more affordable included increasing excess or adjusting coverage.

Cyclone Gabrielle and the Auckland Anniversary floods were “massive events” for the insurance sector, he said.

“We usually see around flooding-type events $350 million paid out, but those two days alone were $3.7 billion events. We’re seeing a bit of a spike in premiums in the short term but in the long term that will level out.”

Homeowners needed to have conversations with their insurer to ensure they had the right amount of cover, so that “if the worst were to happen they’ve got the right premium to replace what they’ve got”.

Last month, RNZ reported that Catholic churches in Otago and Southland were rejecting traditional insurance policies due to skyrocketing premiums, and instead establishing a million-dollar trust fund to pay for repairs in the event of a disaster.

So are insurance premiums too expensive?

Faafoi said New Zealand’s market was “pretty well-functioning at the moment” but 40 percent of a premium was made up of a Fire and Emergency levy, and Earthquake Commission levy, and GST, on top of claims and operational costs.

“There’s lots of drivers that go into the striking of a premium – not all of them are within the purview or the control of the insurance sector.”

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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