Quake victims chart insurance progress

File photo / NZ Herald
File photo / NZ Herald

Consumers waiting on insurance company responses to the Christchurch earthquake rebuild can now see how different companies measure up.

The latest information from InsuranceWatch shows that some insurance companies are progressing significantly better than others.

The volunteer consumer watchdog group has released analysis from its recent survey of 1000 Christchurch property owners, providing a baseline for comparison across insurers and over time as follow-up surveys are conducted.

Many Christchurch residents have expressed anger at the slow pace of settling claims for damaged homes.

InsuranceWatch's David Stringer said: "Our new Pace of Progress chart shows some striking differences between insurers when it comes to fulfilling some very basic process steps and information needs."

The chart records how various insurers have progressed when it comes to:

* Making site inspections

* Confirming the repair/rebuild status of properties

* Providing detailed damage reports

When the survey closed at the end of August, almost all property owners had received an on-site visit by EQC.

There had been site visits to more than 80 per cent of residential properties insured with Lumley, AA/SIS, Tower and Vero.

Meanwhile the IAG group (State, NZI, Banks and Lantern) had made visits to less than 60 per cent of properties for which they were responsible.

Provision of detailed damage reports or scopes also shows a broad spread between companies.

AMI-Southern Response leads the pack, having provided reports or scopes to 75 per cent of its customers, followed by Tower and Lumley around the 50 per cent mark.

Vero, including its Suncorp stablemates AA and SIS, and the IAG group, had provided that information to only 15-20 per cent of its clients.

"These figures show that what kind of information you get and when can vary hugely from insurer to insurer," said Mr Stringer.

InsuranceWatch.org.nz will undertake a follow-up survey in October to look at changes in companies' progress.

Many insurers have been assuring their clients that they are now gearing up for the rebuild, promising additional assessment teams, confirmation of status, and firm offers of settlement or other options.

InsuranceWatch is cautious about some of the claims being made by the industry and how they are presented.

It says companies have been quick to talk about settling thousands of claims but that, to date, the vast majority of these have related to sorting out relatively minor problems such as cracked footpaths and driveways.

Some have combined figures for group members, making it difficult to asses how individual companies have been doing.

For instance, Mr Stringer said: "As of September 18, IAG as a whole had completed a total of 36 rebuilds. NZI's been quoting the group totals in its own company newsletters.

"Unless their clients spot the footnote, they may not be aware that 15 of those 36 rebuilds should be credited to stablemate State Insurance."

InsuranceWatch.org.nz is monitoring figures to see how they match up with announced targets.

IAG has said it intends to achieve a completed rebuild rate of 85 houses per month by the end of 2012. In August, it managed to complete six.

"We certainly hope to see these figures accelerate significantly in the next six months, and not just by completing the easy rebuilds on new developments out west," Mr Stringer said.

"Actual rebuilds have been slow to get off the ground. We'll just have to wait and see what the data tells us about how things change over time."

The Pace of Progress chart is available online here.

- CHRISTCHURCH STAR

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