The outgoing NSW Emergency Services Levy (ESL) Monitor professor Allan Fels has revealed that a “major investigation” into the unlawful pricing practices by Allianz unearthed consistent inaccuracies in data issued by the insurance company, which was resubmitted 13 times.
Fels’ position has since been disbanded but his final quarterly report and his End of Office Review disclosed that Allianz was one of the “top four” insurance companies he had been investigating since 2019.
“This investigation originally arose from concerns over possible price exploitation in relation to differential pricing for new and renewing policies, but the investigation raised more fundamental concerns about the accuracy of data provided by the insurer over the whole of the monitoring period,” the quarterly report stated in part.
“The investigation raises complex legal questions around whether repeated (13 times) re-submission of data supplied to the Monitor for monitoring purposes, and in response to statutory notices, can be regarded as noncompliance.”
The report further notes that the Monitor issued several statutory notices to the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) seeking additional information to help with the investigation.
But according to the report states, the ICA “advised it had previously deleted most of the information sought at the request of its members and resisted producing the remaining information on legal grounds”.
“This was disappointing given the sound relationship developed by the Office with the ICA,” the report noted.
In his End of Office Review, professor Fels once again mentioned the issue as “data challenges” that his office encountered, and revealed that executives from Allianz were “required to attend” a meeting at the Monitor’s office to provide answers to some of the questions.
During the questioning, Allianz blamed emerging issues on requirement to extract data from numerous systems, and employee changes caused by death, retirement and other reasons “which meant that continuity of knowledge in relation to the data supplied was limited and disrupted”.
Prof Fels further explained that the Coronavirus pandemic had greatly interfered with investigation and that eventually there was no solid legal ground to take the issue further.
“Despite the repeated amendments made to data submitted by Allianz, legal advice received by the Monitor indicated that it would be difficult to take legal action on the basis of the insurer’s failure to comply with a statutory notice in this instance,” the report added.
The report further states that failure to adhere only happens if a person “knowingly” gives information that’s false or misleading.
“In this particular case, Allianz has maintained that all information has been provided to the Monitor ‘in good faith’,” the Monitor said.
According to Allianz, any emerging inaccuracies were purely “inadvertent”.
“Allianz did have problems extracting some data in the form requested by the Monitor, resulting in the need to resubmit and/or update some data a number of times,” the spokesman noted.
“However, any data inaccuracies were inadvertent and not indicative of any wrongdoing, which was borne out by the fact that the Monitor’s investigation was ultimately abandoned.”
In a statement, the ICA spokesman noted that “at all times the ICA provided to the Monitor relevant information that was in its possession”.