Almost seven years after the Christchurch earthquakes thousands of policyholders are still trying to settle their claims with insurers ( See http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/89149897/Too-stressed-to-settle-3000-insurance-claims-still-waiting-after-Canterbury-quakes). Jerry Larason and his wife Rebecca are two such individuals. They have an unresolved claim with Vero Insurance and have taken matters into their own hands.
It is an indictment on the private insurance industry and the New Zealand Government that New Zealanders have had to resort to such tactics in order to achieve resolution of legitimate insurance claims. Over the past seven years the population of Christchurch has seen little change in culture or behaviour from the insurance industry nor of the increasingly neo-liberal government. We need to look at the people behind the facts and figures and hold them to account. It is the leaders of these organizations who are responsible and ultimately accountable for improving the behaviour of their institutions toward affected citizens; organisations such as the private insurers and the Earthquake Commission. We all know that it does not take seven years to settle an insurance claim.
“It seems difficult for some corporates to act in a moral way, although most corporates are aware that contractual relationships involving two or more parties have a moral component. For this reason corporates showcase their mission statements, “Trust us we are doing the right thing!” These mission statements address the behavior of the company in the course of their business relationships. Call it a Business Code of Doing Ethics. Usually these codes have an internal and an external component. Internally it will address what is expected of its management and employees; externally it will address how the company will conduct its business in the outside world. Professionalism, respect, fairness, goodwill, non-discrimination, transparency, standards for product quality and product delivery, governance and management, communication, corruption, sponsorship and environment are all matters that are addressed in these company codes. How all these matters are addressed in practice is described in company policies, in their manuals and institutional provisions. Customer complaints for example can be dealt with internally but also through and an external provision like a Consumer Ombudsman. An industry as a whole may draft a code, like the Fair Insurance Code, with which participating insurers agree to comply. These contain an expose of the duties and obligations of and for the parties involved. Legal requirements and obligations overrule the moral prepositions upon which they are initially based. That is why public moral indignation with corporate manipulation and intimidation does not seem to affect corporate behavior in this country. It is not recognized as moral indignation anymore and insurers experience those who express their frustration as “difficult customers”. At best, moral obligations have become a mere preamble to a frustrating legal maze of rules and requirements.” The culture within these institutions can only be seen to be ethically and morally lacking and this is ultimately affecting the overall organizational performance toward its clients. These organizations are responsible for creating and endorsing the kind of inefficiencies and unethical behaviour so many in Christchurch have been confronted with. An early intervention on part of the government could have corrected this at the outset. However matters were left ‘to the market’ and the market is responding.
The major insurers in Christchurch have taken a profound reputation ‘hit’ and will have to work hard to restore confidence – in Christchurch I do not believe that that will ever be achieved. The last seven years will not be forgotten. Certainly recovery from a natural disaster takes time and requires a steep learning curve – we have all become wiser.
As consumers we no longer take what our insurers ‘decide’ as gospel. We have had to resort to actions we might never have expected. For many Cantabrians it has been both financially and emotionally exhausting. It has been undeniably tough.
I feel incredibly sorry for all of you out there and your families still struggling and having to negotiate your way through these problems and I continue to encourage you to work together wherever possible. For those living elsewhere in New Zealand let the insurance story of Christchurch be a sober warning for the future – not just for damage relating to earthquakes – but flooding, tornadoes or any scenario where large numbers of people are affected – insurance is not quite what you’re told it is – at least not in New Zealand.
Read ‘The Insurance Aftershock: the Christchurch Fiasco Post –Earthquake 2010-2016’ (See https://www.amazon.com/Insurance-Aftershock-Christchurch-Post-Earthquake-2010-2016-ebook/dp/B01CDNK3GW/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1504207450&sr=1-1&keywords=the+insurance+aftershock).