FSL amnesty nets hundreds of thousands

Eight brokers and insurers who collected Victoria’s fire service levy (FSL) after its abolition have repaid hundreds of thousands of dollars.

 Approximately 500 policies were identified as charging the levy after its abolition at the end of June 2013, resulting in repayments between $300,000–$400,000 thanks to an amnesty granted by Victoria’s Fire Services Levy Monitor.

The monitor originally wrote to 20 brokers and six insurers to advise them of the amnesty and remind them of their responsibility to refund unlawfully collected FSL to policyholders.

The amnesty period has since closed on 30 October 2014.

“It was a fairly successful outcome from our point of view,” says Victoria’s Fire Services Levy Deputy Monitor David Cousins.

The objective was to encourage companies to act where the monitor felt broker organisations it had been reviewing were too casual in investigating cases of incorrect FSL charges.

“It didn’t seem to us that it hadn’t necessarily been a deliberate act but more a question of inadvertence and sloppiness in compliance,” Cousins says.

Though the monitor had a two-year authority period, which expires 31 December, investigations remain outstanding for some brokers.

“Any matter that is still ongoing, the legislation has provided that those will pass over to the Director of Consumer Affairs Victoria,” Cousins says. “The big issue now is if anyone does come forward identifying a policy that has FSL when it shouldn’t have, then that will be a matter we certainly take up.

“Given the amnesty period no longer applies, we will treat that pretty seriously,” he emphasises.

The penalties for price exploitation, false representation or misleading or deceptive conduct are up to $10 million for companies and $500,000 for individuals.