Brokers critical of ASIC website

North Queensland brokers have lamented a missed opportunity with the Federal Government’s new insurance comparison website failing to point any customers toward expert insurance advice.

Last week, ASIC launched a site to allow homeowners across more than 800 North Queensland suburbs to seek indicative home and contents premium pricing from 11 insurance brands, as part of the Federal Government’s strategy to address insurance affordability concerns in the region.

However, local brokers say the price-comparison focus has undermined policy detail and the importance of risk appraisal.

Although the website warns visitors that policy features on the site are not complete and that comparison results are indicative only, the website also makes no suggestions that customers seek independent advice.

Graham Koch, Director of KIB Insurance Brokers in Cairns, says it is an irresponsible approach.

“The insurance companies are there to sell products, not give in-depth advice,” he says.

“If the government were sincere they’d be saying that these are just the sellers and not the place to get advice. The government should be promoting that potential policyholders seek advice from a registered insurance broker.”

Peter Pierano, Director of Piranha Insurance Brokers in Rockhampton says expert advice is particularly important in high-risk areas such as North Queensland.

“The broking market has extensive knowledge and extensive training,” he says.

“Once you start going direct, with the nil-advice modules, you are just never going to get the same quality of coverage.”

Pierano is also doubtful that the site will have any effect of lowering premiums for North Queensland residents.

“I don’t think it’s got a snowflake’s chance in hell,” says Pierano.

“You can’t just automate everything. There is nothing like local knowledge, with people going out and looking at a risk and getting involved with risk evaluation.”

Doug Olsen, Director of Rivers Insurance Group in Innisfail says the postcode-based premiums displayed have little meaning for the customer, given that proper evaluation requires specific street addresses.

“It can make an enormous difference on a premium that’s being quoted,” he says.

“Unfortunately, the government has brought premium price back into focus and now that is what we have driving it.”