New Privacy Law Changes: What They Might Mean to Us Now

Last year, one of our team lost his phone after a work function in the city. After a few drinks, he ended up back at his apartment with little recollection of how he got there. He didn’t know if he’d taken a bus, a train or a taxi. When he woke up he found his keys, wallet, Opal card but no phone. He logged onto his Opal account and found that he had in fact taken a train to his local station. Great, so that’s how he got home. But it doesn’t explain where his phone went. After going onto several sites that claimed they could trace phones, he found it was located somewhere in his suburb. He suspected it was in his apartment. With no way of locating it exactly, he never found the phone.

 

When he was a child, his dog frequently (and inconveniently) ate his homework. We now believe his current canine is attempting to sabotage the good work of those at FT Adjusting!

 

Given that both the phone and the documents on the phone are password protected, and he has been notified by his service provider that the phone has not been used on its current SIM, it is reasonable to assume that there is little chance of foul play. It is also unlikely that anything further will eventuate.

Privacy Laws

Image: pixabay.com

This is an unfortunate incident and one that we take reasonable steps to avoid, but sometimes things like this happen. Recent amendments made to The Privacy Act mean if an incident like this were to happen now, it would have some serious implications for not only FT but also the insurance companies we are working with.

 

The key change to this legislation for FT Adjusting, and other Australian Privacy Principle (APP) entities, is the mandatory reporting to clients in the case of an incident such as this. “Where personal information of affected individuals is lost in circumstances that may give rise to unauthorised access or unauthorised disclosure.” We must notify our clients now when any possible breach of data may occur, rather than let them know when a genuine breach has occurred. Of course, data breaches can be malicious, but they certainly aren’t always. Losing your phone at a function, leaving your briefcase on the bus, or forgetting your notes in a public place where someone may gain access to it is a simple slip-up – now with some serious consequences.

Words by Isabelle Laker

Lightning Storms Strike Again

Clean up efforts continue this morning after severe weather and thunderstorms battered Sydney and much of NSW last night. This came less than a day after huge electrical storms (around 13,000 lightning strikes!) hit Sydney on Monday.

A stunning lighting show lit up Sydney Harbour and the CBD before a large amount of rain fell in the eastern suburbs at around 7pm. The Bureau of Meteorology reported that 13mm of rain fell in Little Bay in the space of just half an hour. Sydney saw its highest wind speeds on the harbour, reaching 89km/h, and at Sydney Airport, reaching speeds of 91km/h.

Last night’s electrical storm caused damage to the power network and extensive power loss. Two lightning strikes on vital substations have been reported, and strong winds brought down trees and branches. It has been estimated that roughly 11,000 homes and businesses in the Illawarra, Southern Highlands and parts of Sydney were without power. By 11pm last night, emergency crews from Endeavour Energy were able to restore power to all but 2,100 customers. According to the company, those remaining without power were due to have it restored by this morning.

Lightning

Image: pexels.com

Lightning Causes Damage and Delays

The State Emergency Services received a massive 385 requests state-wide for assistance during the storm. Most damage related to trees and fallen branches, and there were no major incidents. However,  there will no doubt be many insurance claims as a result. Severe delays on NSW trains have been attributed in part to widespread storm damage, though ABC News reports that no refunds will be given to commuters.

Hopefully this storm will mark a brief respite from the recent heat we’ve been experiencing lately. It follows right on the heels of record temperatures on Sunday, where Penrith saw a high of 47.3 degrees Celsius.

Words by Isabelle Laker

Starting the New Year with a Bang

It was supposed to be a celebratory start to the New Year, but an offshore explosion forced thousands to evacuate from Terrigal Beach on New South Wales’ Central Coast. Crowds gathered to watch the New Year’s Eve fireworks, but a few minutes into the 9pm show, cheers of excitement turned into fear as the display barge caught fire. It is now believed that one of the fireworks exploded inside its canister, rather than in the air. This triggered a domino effect, igniting other fireworks and setting the barge itself alight, before causing the vessel to sink.

Fortunately, the two pyrotechnicians aboard we able to dive from the fire and swam to safety. According to a NSW Ambulance Service spokeswoman, the technicians were treated for minor injuries including burns and exposure, which was sustained in the water. The pair were shaken but unharmed, and one returned to work the following day.

Fireworks

Image: pexels.com

Local businessman David Lambert led a crowd-funding campaign that raised roughly $40,000, the figure required to bring New Year’s Eve fireworks to Terrigal for the first time in eighteen years.

An array of emergency crews responded to the incident including Fire Rescue NSW, Rural Fire Service, Marine Rescue, Police and Ambulance. However, it has been stressed that the public was not in danger. Ka-Boom Fireworks, the company responsible for the display, has since released a statement in which it thanked emergency services for their assistance.

An incident like this, with the potential to generate countless claims, sparks considerable interest in public liability insurers. Thankfully for Mr. Lambert, he was reportedly able to gain public liability insurance, as well as relevant approvals from the emergency services and the Central Coast Council. The barge that sank has since been retrieved, and the NSW Environmental Protection Authority continues to monitor spillages of hazardous material from the wreckage.

Despite the incident, Mr. Lambert plans to put on another spectacular display in 2018.

Words by Isabelle Laker

Calamity Cladding

It’s the kind of thing that can cause headaches for many homeowners. Imagine paying a perfectly reasonable insurance premium for many years, only for it to suddenly spike out of nowhere. Well, that’s exactly what’s happened to the residents of an apartment in Brunswick, Victoria.

After their building caught fire earlier this year, owners of the Anstey Square building in Brunswick have been ordered to take immediate action to remove dangerous cladding on the building. The apartments are clad in a mix of polystyrene and aluminium composite panelling, the same material that was used on the Grenfell Tower. You can read more about this type of cladding in great detail in my earlier blog post here.

premium

Image: pexels.com

According to The Age, the overall costs to repair the building are estimated to be more than $2 million. But that’s not all that’s leaving the apartment owners out of pocket. The already-stressed Brunswick apartment residents now have another worry. Their insurance premiums have now more than quadrupled, to almost $134,000 this year.

Chairman of an owners’ corporation, Allister Hill, told ABC News that while he was thankful for the insurance, “it’s a bit scary how much they want.”

According to Insurance Business, legal action has already been filed against the builder. But for the moment, the residents are seeking government intervention. It’s not just these residents that could be caught up in the insurance premium spike, however. It’s estimated that thousands of Melburnians could be affected as understanding of how widespread the issue is becomes known. This could mean anyone who owns an apartment clad by builders using combustible materials in the past decade. Stay tuned, folks. These premiums could be going through the roof.

Words by Skye Jamieson

Deal or No Deal?

Deal or no deal? It’s the million-dollar question – or should we say, billion-dollar? Now, I love a good deal as much as the next person, but this one’s particularly spicy. While there’s no Andrew O’Keefe or sequined women in sight, this week in insurance news we saw a huge acquisition in the insurance industry. Zurich has acquired ANZ’s life insurance business for a grand total of $2.85 billion.

Now let’s get down to the nitty gritty. According to Insurance Business, the sale is made up of two transactions, inclusive of $1 billion of upfront reinsurance commission from Zurich, with the remaining balance paid on completion of the deal.

The transaction will see Zurich take on 100 per cent of ANZ’s One Path Life Insurance.

deal

Image: pexels.com

So why is this such a huge deal for Zurich? Well, it now makes Zurich the largest retail life insurance firm in the country. It’ll have more that 1.5 million customers, as the international giant owns a whopping 19 per cent share of the Australian life insurance market.

According to a statement from OnePath Life Insurance, “The deal will see two true insurance specialists come together to create Australia’s number one retail life insurer and reinforces Zurich’s commitment to financial advisers as valued business partners. It will introduce exciting opportunities for Zurich to invest in new ways to make life insurance more relevant, engaging and accessible to Australians.”

The deal gives the Swiss insurer the top spot in a market attractive to global players, due to its robust economy and low penetration, says Reuters. Zurich will also enter into a 20-year distribution agreement with ANZ in Australia to distribute life insurance products via bank channels.

So, all in all, the ‘deal’ decision seems to be a promising one. It might just be that lucky green $200,000 suitcase hiding in plain sight.

Words by Skye Jamieson

Piggy in the Middle

Claims, claims, claims. We just can’t get enough of them. As loss adjusters we thrive on our favourite type – construction and engineering. They often come in the form of contract works, public and products liability or professional indemnity claims. And at FT Adjusting, simplicity is at the heart of our claims philosophy, which is why we’re proud of our ‘niche-pertise’.

Now, before I get teary-eyed, I’ll try and get back on track with this blog (I had a point to make, I promise!). The fact is, the claims space is a volatile and diverse cycle. But it also has the potential to change dramatically. In fact, an industry expert has provided his recommendation for digitalising the claims space. And boy, it’s a doozy.

Claim Central Consolidated CEO Brian Siemsen told Insurance Business that we mustn’t “put lipstick on the pig,” when it comes to digitalising the claims space. You heard that right.

Pig

Image: Pixabay.com

“What we tend to try and do, particularly in the Australian and New Zealand industry, is put a different colour lipstick on the same pig,” Siemsen told Insurance Business. “The real challenge is whether we can think disruptively enough in the claims space. Can we map that customer journey and use digitisation to recreate potential operating models?”

While it’s a unique picture to imagine, Siemsen does make some excellent points here. He believes that the advent and acceptance of digital technologies provides the industry with an opportunity to rethink a customer’s journey. This could be all the way throughout the claims process, from researching and taking out a policy to making insurance claims.

In rethinking the operating model, it’s not all about bringing home the bacon. It’s about making successful processes between customer, broker, insurer and supplier. And that’s something you can take straight to the piggy bank.

Words by Skye Jamieson

A Royal Affair

December is finally here, and so is the royal commission into alleged misconduct by banks, insurers and other financial service entities. It’s going to be a long, hot summer.

Now, you might find yourself asking, what is a royal commission again? Don’t worry – we’ve all been there. Unfortunately, a royal commission has nothing to do with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (although we think royal wedding plans would spice it up a little). According to ABC News, a royal commission is a public inquiry governed by an act of parliament. They can be called on any matter “connected with the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth or any public purpose or any power of the Commonwealth”.

This particular royal commission will be investigating misconduct in the financial services sector. That includes all types of dodgy deals from banks like dishonest financial advice, questionable spending of people’s retirement savings and other behaviour that generally “falls below community standards and expectations” (i.e., major wrongdoing).

So who’s paying for it all? That’d be us, the taxpayers – including the little old ladies who’ve already been conned by the banks. It’s a hefty pricetag at $75 million – and that’s just the starting price.

Royal

Image: pexels.com

According to Insurance News, insurers are saying they’re ready to contribute to the commission. Insurance Council of Australia CEO, Rob Whelan, says the Insurance Council is reviewing the draft terms of reference and will provide input to the Government.

“Though the calls for a formal inquiry have focused on the banks, the Insurance Council of Australia hopes the royal commission will end political uncertainty and improve public confidence in the insurance sector,” said Mr Whelan.

The financial services industry plays an important role in the lives of Australians, so there’s a big focus from banks and insurance groups on rebuilding trust and confidence in the sector. The review will be given a year to deliver its financial report, so watch this space for more updates to come.

Words by Skye Jamieson

Holiday Interrupted

It’s the age-old tale of fine print, loopholes and hidden restrictions that’s told all too often in the insurance world. Insurance policies and documents can be filled to the brim with insurance-y jargon, unnecessarily complex sentences and downright confusing clauses. And that’s just the beginning.

A recent report by the Sydney Morning Herald found that a whopping 26 per cent of people who bought travel insurance in the past twelve months didn’t even look at the document. Blimey. What’s more, the report found that people under the age of thirty were most at risk of not viewing or fully understanding their policy. And to be honest, we can’t say we blame them. Insurance policies are often built to be difficult to understand and even harder to finish.

Which is why we’re not surprised by the news that thousands of Aussies have been stranded in Bali and left potentially out of pocket. The eruption of Mount Agung has halted all flights in and out of the tourist hotspot. And guess who’s included in that list of victims? A large number of young Aussie schoolies who have been caught on the island since Sunday.

 

fine print

Image: Trent Strohm, Flickr

The devil’s in the detail, and the details are in the fine print. Many insurance companies are telling their customers just that. Some companies have issued statements telling customers they would only be covered if they bought policies up to nine weeks ago – before the Indonesian government issued an alert on the volcano. According to Insurance Business, the alert was first raised to level four – suggesting an eruption was imminent – on September 22nd.

So, if you’re a traveller, your best bet is to dig out your handy magnifying glass and double check that pesky fine print. Impacted travellers are being urged to consult their policies and insurance company websites to check if they are covered.

Words by Skye Jamieson

Asbestos Awareness

In keeping with the theme of last week’s blog, today’s topic is all about the dangers of asbestos. It’s November, and that means it’s Asbestos Awareness Month! This is a particularly pertinent issue for Australians because we have one of the highest rates of asbestos-related diseases in the world, according to Asbestos Awareness.

Before we get down to business, it’s time for a little backstory on asbestos. One of the only places in Australia that produced blue asbestos was a small mining town called Wittenoom in Western Australia. The roads of Wittenoom were paved with asbestos, and the thriving town literally lived and breathed it every day. By 1961, a former Wittenoom miner was diagnosed with mesothelioma (an asbestos-related disease) and died, becoming the first of more than three hundred former mine workers to die of the disease, reported ABC News.

Today, Wittenoom is (almost) a ghost town. The Western Australian Government recommends avoiding the area and no longer recognises Wittenoon as a town. Electricity has been cut off, mail deliveries stopped and police patrols halted, reported The Age. But amazingly, Wittenoom has a grand population of three people, who refuse to evacuate their homes.

Awareness

Image: Wikipedia

Now to business. Asbestos is a serious danger in the construction and engineering industry. It’s not just tradies, builders and engineers that need to be aware of the dangers of asbestos in our homes and buildings, but all Australians. Many people wrongly believe that only fibro homes contain asbestos. In fact, asbestos products can be found in any Australian home built or renovated before 1987. This includes brick, weatherboard, fibro and clad homes.

The fact is that one in three Aussie homes contains asbestos. If you’re renovating this summer, check out this healthy house checklist to help you identify asbestos products and safely mange them. You can also check out the Australian Government’s Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency FAQ page.

Words by Skye Jamieson

Cladding Up

Earlier this year (nearly four months ago!) I blogged about the dangers of cladding. More specifically, about the audit that Australian authorities have been conducting to ensure any cladding used in high-rise buildings is fire-retardant. In case you missed it, cladding is generally used on buildings to provide thermal insulation and weather resistance to a structure. It’s also sometimes used decoratively to improve the outer appearance of buildings. It can come in many forms, including Polyethylene/aluminium composite cladding (PE Cladding).

Cladding used on Australian buildings became a huge cause for concern after the deadly Grenfell Tower disaster. So it’s not surprising that many insurance companies are responding to the issue and updating their policies on composite cladding. MECON is one such example.

MECON are asking some tough questions. Who, if anyone, is legally liable for the presence of the PE cladding in a product? Would it be the PE cladding supplier, the building owner? Or would it be the specifier of the PE cladding: the architect, engineer or builder? In searching for answers, MECON likens the case of PE cladding to the case of asbestos cladding. In doing so, they’ve highlighted the key similarities and differences between the two cases.

Asbestos

Modern Cladding. Image: Pixabay

Similarities:

  • Both are stable themselves, but are potentially dangerous given the right circumstances.
  • Both were promoted and authorised for use as a building material.
  • Both were identified as dangerous before their use was restricted/banned.
  • Both were specified for use by a number of different entities in the construction (or supply) chain.
  • Both exist today in buildings, but that in itself has not triggered a legal obligation to remove it.

Differences:

  • The PE Cladding is flammable but asbestos is not.
  • Asbestos was manufactured in Australia but the PE Cladding was imported.
  • Asbestos is more of an OH&S issue than the PE Cladding.

Now that the potential dangers of PE cladding are known, says MECON, and the Government is potentially moving to ban and restrict use, these issues of liability will likely come into question. Stay tuned, folks, this one could get tricky.

Words by Skye Jamieson