Jeremy, and his then partner, Sarah, owned a property together. While Jeremy and Sarah were living together their home was burgled and an insurance claim filed. After Jeremy moved out the insurer wrote to both Jeremy and Sarah advising that the claim was declined due to Sarah’s actions and it had cancelled the policy.
Without telling Jeremy, Sarah arranged insurance with another insurer in both their names. When the policy was renewed, and an invoice sent out, Jeremy discovered Sarah had included him as a co-insured.
Jeremy contacted the insurance broker asking for information about the policy. The broker gave Jeremy the policy covering letter, the invoice, and the policy summary. Jeremy wanted to see the proposal form Sarah had completed because he was concerned she might not have disclosed that the previous claim had been declined, compromising his insurance. The broker refused to release the information and Jeremy complained to FSCL and the Privacy Commissioner.
Jeremy considered that the insurance broker was obliged to give him all the information about its decision to insure the property. Jeremy also considered it unacceptable for insurance policies to be issued without the consent of all parties. Jeremy wanted the broker and the insurer to give him the information requested, apologise and change the way they deal with information
We reviewed Jeremy’s complaint and advised our view that the broker had acted appropriately.
The legal position
Although the position in law is that an innocent co-insured should not be penalised for a co-insured’s wrong doing[i] the policy wording meant that if one person breached the policy terms, it affected everybody insured by the policy. However, we had no evidence that Sarah had not disclosed that the previous claim had been declined. Indeed, the courts have decided that past convictions do not necessarily mean someone is uninsurable.[ii] Sarah may well have disclosed the previous claim had been declined, but the insurer decided it was prepared to insure the property anyway.
The broker explained that it is industry standard to issue a policy to co-insureds without further enquiry. The broker’s privacy statement places the obligation, of checking that the co-insured agree to the release of personal information, on the person applying for the insurance. While Sarah may not have asked Jeremy for permission to include him as a co-insured, this was Sarah’s error and not the broker’s. The broker explained the importance of arranging insurance without delay outweighs the need to check with co-insureds that they agree for the policy to be issued in their name.
We suggested that once Jeremy discovered he was listed as a co-insured he could have arranged insurance with another insurer in his own name, and then asked the broker to remove his name from the policy arranged by Sarah.
Privacy Commissioner’s response
Finally, the Privacy Commissioner advised his view that the broker could reasonably withhold the information Jeremy requested. Our terms of reference do not allow us to review a matter already determined by the Privacy Commissioner
We suggested that Jeremy withdraw his complaint about the broker. On all the information available to us, bearing in mind the Privacy Commissioner’s view, we considered the broker had acted reasonably. Jeremy did not respond to our decision, and we discontinued our investigation.
Brokers walk a fine line when arranging insurance for properties where joint owners are no longer in a relationship. We were satisfied that the broker had correctly protected Sarah’s privacy, while giving Jeremy the information he needed.