Reforms to protect householders

MAJOR Flood insurance reform is set to see a standard definition of flood introduced so that householders aren't ridden roughshod over like they were in the aftermath of the January floods.

The Federal Labor Government's Natural Disaster Insurance Review enquiry came up with several recommendations and the reforms were announced yesterday by Assistant Treasurer Bill Shorten in Brisbane.

Member for Blair, Shayne Neumann, a prime mover behind the reforms, said the insurance industry's definition of flood had been a "vexed issue" for many householders during the floods but that was set to change.

A flood will mean the covering of normal dry land by water that has escaped or been released from the normal confines of any lake, or any river, creek or other natural watercourse - whether or not altered or modified - or any reservoir, canal, or dam.

"Flooding will be clearly defined so everybody knows what it means," Mr Neumann said.

"At the moment flooding could be anything. No-one has got a standard definition."

Another reform will ensure insurers must offer flood cover as a part of their policies with customers given the opportunity to opt out if they desire.

"All insurers must offer flood cover and people will have the opportunity to... opt out if they want to," Mr Neumann said.

"But the default position will be that you have flood insurance."

Mr Neumann said a proposed "one page key fact statement would also make policies easier to understand."

"The product disclosure forms are that complex that people need virtual law degrees to contend with them, so starting 2012 there will be a one page key fact statement which will complement the existing product disclosure statement," he said.

Another reform is the provision of reliable and consistent flood risk information via a portal hosted by Geoscience Australia.

"That will provide a single access point for existing flood mapping data so people can check out the areas that are subject to flooding," Mr Neumann said

The insurance industry has also agreed to remove the provision in their voluntary code of practice that says the code doesn't apply in natural disasters. Mr Neumann said it was ludicrous that they had previously had a "get out of jail free card."

"The code will also contain a four-month time limit for insurance companies to make a decision along with a time limit for the completion of hydrologists' reports. Consumers (will) have the right to access those reports... at the moment they don't."



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