A personal finance columnist for the NZ Herald

Inside Money: Why consumers rip off insurers

'I'd left my brand new camera on the back seat too...' - Why do so many people think it's OK to lie on insurance claims? Photo / Thinkstock
'I'd left my brand new camera on the back seat too...' - Why do so many people think it's OK to lie on insurance claims? Photo / Thinkstock

As reported here a few weeks ago, insurers dominate the financial services consumer complaints rankings.

And while it is hard to summon up much sympathy for insurance companies, they also have a few justifiable complaints to make against their customers, according to the results of a recent survey, highlighted by industry consultant, Russell Hutchinson.

The survey, carried out on behalf of Southern Cross Travel Insurance, found that 21 per cent of men and 17 per cent of women think it's ok to inflate insurance claims. Furthermore, 11 per cent of men and 9 per cent of women reckon it's possible to claim for existing damage without damaging their respective consciences.

Aside from proving that women are slightly more ethical than men, the fact that about one in five people are happy enough to fudge insurance claims indicates a major breakdown in the consumer/insurer relationship.

Southern Cross admitted as much by citing "trust issues" in the press release headline, of which it uncovered further evidence.

"The survey found that 42 per cent of men thought travel insurance companies either 'always' or 'most of the time' looked for excuses not to pay valid claims, compared to 31 per cent of women," the Southern Cross release says.

Despite some reservations about the survey methodology, Hutchinson says the results probably under-report the true level of insurance fraud.

But whatever the actual level of insurance fraud, it undoubtedly adds costs and frustration to the entire process, most of which is ultimately carried by all policy-holders via increased premiums and lost hours of form-filling.

"It is a challenge to reinforce the levels of trust needed to ensure the efficient operation of an insurance sector," Hutchinson says in classic understatement, which could probably be applied to the entire financial services industry

- NZ Herald

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A personal finance columnist for the NZ Herald

David is a freelance journalist who has covered the financial services business on both sides of the Tasman for over 15 years. He is the editor of industry website Investment News. David has edited magazines and websites for the financial advice, investment and superannuation industries.

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