More bite to new NW insurance probe

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An Australian Competition and Consumer Commission inquiry into insurance premiums in northern Australia will be able to probe companies harder and access information a previous inquiry into high premiums failed to do.

The Federal Government has directed the ACCC to undertake an inquiry into affordability and availability of residential building, contents and strata insurance across the top end.

The inquiry is being held despite the Government already having recommendations from an inquiry by the Northern Australia Insurance Premiums taskforce sitting on the table since November 2015.

Durack MHR Melissa Price said the ACCC inquiry would be able to dig deeper than the previous effort.

“The ACCC has compulsory information gathering powers, something that the Northern Australia Insurance Taskforce did not,” she said.

“The ACCC’s remit will be to determine whether or not the insurance providers have acted ethically in the marketplace. This is why the second inquiry was necessary.

“In addition, it will focus on the consumer experience, something not touched on in previous inquiries.”

Ms Price said the Federal Government was still considering other measures such as mitigation, something all levels of government would have to be party to.

The ACCC will host a series of forums this month, including in Broome on November 29 and Karratha on November 30.

“These forums will allow us to hear directly from people in northern Australia about their experiences of the insurance market,” ACCC deputy chairwoman Delia Rickard said.

“Our inquiry aims to identify the barriers that prevent consumers from accessing affordable, appropriate, and comprehensive insurance.

“As a formal inquiry, we will use our compulsory information gathering powers to access information directly from insurers. This is something other inquiries have not been able to do.”

A final report is due to be submitted by November 2020, six years after recommendations from the previous inquiry were handed down.

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