Flood victims picket insurance company

February 26, 2011

About 50 angry policyholders — victims of the huge floods that inundated large parts of Brisbane in January — protested outside the South Bank offices of insurance company CGU on February 18. The noisy protest presented a list of demands to the company, the February 19 Courier Mail said.

“A delegation led by social worker Sally Doyle told CGU executives that protesters wanted the company to follow the example set by NAB [National Australia Bank], which this week committed $15 million to pay all of its customers' claims even though its policies, through Allianz, do not cover flood,” the article said.

Doyle said the delegation asked CGU to follow the lead of other insurers such as RACQ and Comminsure, which have set aside millions of dollars to make the so-called “ex-gratia” payments.

The paper said: “Protesters demanded that CGU speed up the processing of claims including sending assessors to all policyholders' properties; make an immediate payment of $10,000 to each customer; and set up a fund of at least $15 million to pay claims.”

On February 22 the paper said the NRMA had rejected the claims of hundreds of flood victims because they were affected by “sunny day flooding”.

Flood victim Chester Chavez called for a boycott of NRMA and the Brisbane Broncos rugby league team, which landed a three-year, multimillion-dollar sponsorship deal with NRMA last October.

CGU has since reportedly joined NRMA in ruling out ex-gratia payments to flood victims, the February 23 Courier Mail said.

Concerns have also been raised about the independence of the panel of experts assessing the flood damage. The panel has already produced reports for two big insurance companies that are being used to deny flood victims' claims. At least one hydrology firm on the panel has done work for these insurance companies before.

Ipswich mayor Paul Pissale said the experts' dual role “has to be the biggest conflict of interest”.

Pissale called on the federal government to pick a totally independent panel of expert hydrologists to make assessments.

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