"Highlighting the inadequacies of the way in which the earthquakes of 2010-2012 were handled by the insurance industry! "

Insurance Company blatantly says: “You will get what you are given” ; Customer: “Excuse me! Did I hear you correctly?”


On Thursday 3rd of January 2012, I watched a program on Heartland TV about one woman’s struggle with her insurance company. It was clear to me that from the tone of the conversation with the CEO of State SAM_1487Insurance (an IAG subsidiary) that the inference was that at the end of the day, the insurer will decide ‘what you will be given’. In this particular case the home of a woman had burned down (not even an earthquake related story) and under her full replacement policy she had been in a long extended and difficult struggle with State Insurance (over a year) in an attempt to get them to honour her insurance contract. The TV cameo was interesting to watch and not surprising in light of events we have experienced in Canterbury.

That story instantly triggered a memory my husband and I had with the same CEO, now nearly two years ago, where she also told us that “you will get what you are given”. Our house was badly damaged in the 2010 earthquake and, after a thorough inspection by EQC, it was deemed a “total rebuild”. Our insurance company thought and continues to assert that a fix up job will do. So we insisted upon having face-to-face meetings with the senior management of State. Then came this condescending remark. Who in their right mind would think you could approach a customer in that way? We were stunned. I was reminded of the outdated ‘Doctor knows best’ approach. I should have held her to account in that meeting for her statement at the time, but in the event it was simply noted and recorded. They need to understand that I am not a ‘patient’, I am your customer.

It was such a telling statement because it reveals so clearly that, when push comes to shove, many big corporations do not operate from a customer centred basis. Not only have they an outdated concept of how they relate to their customers in the modern age, but it is also clear that such a remark would only be made when the insurer has other interests at the core of their business strategies- such as minimising their risk and protecting their bottom line. These are interests that we as customers do not realize when we sign up with the insurer. You may earmark such statements as a ‘slip of the tongue’ and of minor importance, but in reality they reveal the truth about what drives these organizations, particularly when they come from the top of the organization. At the top is where they set their corporate culture. We, the customers, do not and will not decide what we signed up for – ultimately the insurance company will decide- or so they think.

You occasionally hear how helpful they were ‘when the windshield broke’ and how quickly it was replaced. These small gestures make us think that our insurance company is on our side when we need them. It helps to grow some degree of mental goodwill towards them. But those incidents are minor and do not compare with the loss of a home. Nor is the cost inference even comparable. In a situation where hundreds of thousands of high-value claims are generated, their response is quite different and triggers a corporate behaviour of a different sort. I only discovered this hidden attitude when we asked our insurance company to simply do what they agreed to do when we signed our insurance policy with them, in good faith, ‘You will get what we decide to give you!’ was the response. ‘Stuff the facts, stuff the customer, ultimately the insurer unilaterally decides how to resolve matters’ is what they actually believe.

I hope that this personal observation helps you, the reader, to become vigilant. Be prepared for those ‘slips of the tongue’ when it comes to negotiate your overdue settlement! Take careful note of those ‘slips of the tongue’! Don’t be caught out or allow them to belittle you. Stand your ground and insist upon fair treatment.

Author: Sarah-Alice Miles

Love to write, create and watch the clouds move across the sky - these days in the Netherlands. 'Art allows us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time'.

6 thoughts on “Insurance Company blatantly says: “You will get what you are given” ; Customer: “Excuse me! Did I hear you correctly?”

  1. They simply paint a pretty picture when advertising which is far from the reality. Trouble is you only find out the truth when you are suffering and stressed and have the least energy to deal with it. The word vultures comes to mind.


  2. The insurers are afraid of just one thing…litigation…they know the courts may well not be as sheepish as many claimants have been…the chch courts and judges are keen for the cases to be brought which shall end this corporate bullying…this i have upon good authority…we have been too slow to bring such a case but the time is near…support Olly Ohlson and the OLoughnins in their High Court cases and see this fiasco begin to be resolved at long last.


    • Steve
      I agree but what terrifies insurers is loss of customers/market share and the insured in NZ & Australia following the gross mishandling of claims from quakes & floods have the opportunity to teach insurers an expensive lesson by switching their loyalty if there is a choice of companies offering suitable economic cover with a reputation for timely & fair claims settlement . IAG in particular appear to be the worst in both countries and perhaps the loss of 40% market share in NZ (as happened in the US following Katrina) would be a lesson that the industry generally would be ultra careful to avoid. Delay in settlement without compensation for that delay is effective theft and clearly there is no political will to mitigate this so perhaps Politicians need a reminder next election that their primary duty is to their citizens. The internet now allows the wagons to circulate the indians(Insurers & Politicians alike) and they should be afraid if not terrified by its ability to spread the truth to friends relatives and others in a forum were the spin Doctors chatter will be drowned by the shouting of the masses.


      • Here, here Mike! We could institute a perfectly adequate public system in this country which would not cost any more than our current premiums and would leave the private insurance industry out of a job – they are clearly unwilling to live up to their end of the bargain- good faith has gone out the window- their focus is on profits only. There is an ideological misfit between protection of citizens post disaster and shareholder profits.


  3. Dean MacGregor, IAG Executive General Manager Canterbury Recovery promised publicly on the 26th November, at an IAG Public Forum at Westpac Hub, Addington, that he would phone me personally to discuss my situation. I am still waiting.
    Their incompetence and delaying tactics are tragic. They are causing stress, alcoholism and relationship problems daily.


  4. Great advise – Stand your ground and insist upon fair treatment. I love your book.


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