News Regulations12 Jul 2019

Australia:Regulator will pursue all options to rectify failings in bancassurance

| 12 Jul 2019

A review by the Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC) of the sale of consumer credit insurance (CCI) by 11 major banks and other lenders has found that the design and sale of such products has consistently failed consumers.

In a report released yesterday, ASIC’s report highlights the very low value of CCI products and the unfair way they are promoted and sold to consumers. This work forms part of ASIC’s broader priority to address fairness to consumers and, in particular, harm in insurance.

ASIC Commissioner Sean Hughes said, “Lenders and insurers have had more than enough time to improve sales practices and provide better value for consumers. An inevitable consequence of these widespread failings and mis-selling practices will involve ASIC taking significant enforcement action against some of the entities named in our report”.

He said, “If we do not see early, significant and sustained improvement in the design and sale of consumer credit insurance, our next steps may involve the deployment of our new product intervention power where we see a risk of significant consumer detriment. We also will not hesitate to pursue civil penalties where there has been a failure by any lender or insurer to act efficiently, honestly and fairly. All options are on the table.”

Findings

ASIC’s review found that:

  • CCI is extremely poor value for money – for CCI sold with credit cards, consumers received only 11 cents in claims for every dollar paid in premiums. Across all CCI products sold by lenders, only 19 cents were recovered in claims for every premium dollar which consumers paid.
  • CCI sales practices caused consumers harm.
  • consumers were sold CCI despite the fact they were ineligible to claim under their policy.
  • telephone sales staff used high-pressure selling and other unfair sales practices when selling CCI.
  • Consumers were given non-compliant personal advice to buy unsuitable policies.
  • Consumers were incorrectly charged for CCI, including being charged ongoing CCI premiums even though they no longer had a loan.
  • Many lenders did not have consumer-focused processes to help consumers in hardship make a claim under their CCI policy.

Problems and action

The problems identified in the review are being addressed by ASIC in the following ways:

  • ASIC is undertaking investigations into the suspected misconduct of several entities involved in the CCI product market, with a view to enforcement action. The defendants to ASIC’s future action will be publicly identified at the time proceedings commence.
  • Due to the consumer harms ASIC has seen with the unsolicited outbound sale of CCI by telephone, the commission will shortly consult with all interested participants and consumers with a view to ASIC completely banning this practice.
  • ASIC’s work has led to a significant remediation programme expected to exceed AUD$100m ($70m) paid to over 300,000 consumers. To date, over A$51m has been paid to over 186,000 consumers. ASIC’s work to secure further compensation will continue.
  • ASIC expects all CCI lenders to incorporate a four-day deferred sales model for all CCI products across all channels, not just those entities that subscribe to the Banking Code of Practice.
  • ASIC expects lenders and insurers to design and offer products with significantly higher claims ratios and will continue to collect and publish data to measure improvements.

ASIC's report also sets out important design and distribution standards for CCI sold by lenders. Lenders and insurers are expected to meet these standards or entirely cease selling CCI until they do. Several lenders have already ceased selling CCI.

Background

In October 2011, ASIC issued a report titled “Consumer credit insurance: A review of sales practices by authorised deposit-taking institutions “, which made 10 recommendations about sales scripts, disclosure, training programmes and monitoring systems to reflect best practice and reduce the risk that CCI may be mis-sold to consumers.

In August 2017, ASIC raised concerns about the way in which CCI was being sold. As a result, the Banking Code of Practice now has a four-day deferred sales period for CCI sold with credit cards and personal loans in branch or over the phone, effective 1 July 2019. However, this obligation only applies to those who subscribe to the Code.

In December 2017, ASIC commenced a review of the design and sale of CCI. It required the 11 lenders to undertake an independent review of their CCI sales practices and collected detailed data about the way these products performed for consumers.


 

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