The Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) Australia has activated its significant event response plan following the bush and grass fires in New South Wales and Victoria. The significant event response plan is activated for events such as natural disasters that can potentially result in significant numbers of related disputes coming to FOS. It provides for early communication with relevant stakeholders and a more streamlined, expedited process for the resolution of related disputes.
Have you been affected?
If you have been affected by the recent bush and grass fires in New South Wales and Victoria, we encourage you to contact your insurance company.
For help with the claims process, or if you are unable to contact your insurance company, please call the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) disaster hotline on 1800 734 621.
The ICA has formally declared a catastrophe for areas affected by the fires between 17-19 March 2018. You can read more about it here.
How we can help you
FOS offers free and accessible dispute resolution services to all Australian residents. If you have raised a complaint with your insurance company but you have been unable to resolve the matter, you can then come to us for assistance. Please note, we are only able to assess your dispute once you have raised the matter with your insurer.
If you encounter difficulties relating to your insurance claims which you are unable to resolve directly with your insurer, you can register your dispute with us using our online dispute form or by calling 1800 367 287. More information about our dispute resolution process is available here.
People affected by natural disasters can experience both short-term and long-term financial difficulties, ranging from lost credit cards and problems accessing cash through to being unable to make loan repayments. Banks and other financial services providers generally provide assistance to customers in cases of genuine hardship.
More information on natural disasters and financial hardship can be found in this fact sheet. Please make sure you notify us that you have been affected by bushfire when you register your dispute.
Insurance claims – cooling off period
General Insurance Code of Practice, section 4.5: Cooling off period for claims arising from a natural catastrophe or disaster. If your insurer (financial services provider or FSP) is a member of the General Insurance Code of Practice (the Code) and it finalised your claim within one month of a natural catastrophe or disaster, you have a six-month cooling off period to check whether your claim included everything that was lost or damaged. The cooling off period is available to you even though you may have signed a release when your claim was finalised.
If you think the assessment of your loss was not complete or accurate, contact your FSP and ask it to review your claim.
Some FSPs also have guidelines which allow a review of your claim arising from a natural disaster at any time after finalisation.
Find out if your FSP is a member of the Code here.