Two Insurance Council of Australia websites offer valuable information, especially for those caught in a disaster.
Summer is Australia’s disaster season. Every year, fires and floods cause property loss that cost communities millions of dollars. These natural events often lead to pet and livestock deaths. Some, too often in this brutal land of droughts and flooding rains, lead to the tragic loss of fathers, mothers, daughters and sons.
It doesn’t matter where you live in this harsh continent – in summer, disasters can affect you or someone you love. (And that’s not including the threats posed by lethal snakes and spiders while living in a hot climate with crappy single-lane roads on the edge of shark-infested waters.) Having insurance must be a consideration because anything can happen.
As everyday as insurance is, it’s sold as a grudge purchase. Understanding what each insurance brand offers is difficult for consumers, who also have to deal with seemingly ever-rising premiums and impenetrable, bible-length policy documents outlining what is covered by an “act of God”*. It’s not surprising many Australians don’t have the right level of insurance when disaster makes a house call.
“Over the past six years, catastrophes have caused insurance losses of more than $9 billion, yet a significant proportion of householders and businesses affected by disasters have either been underinsured or not insured,” says Campbell Fuller, general manager, communications for the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA). “Without adequate insurance cover, many households and businesses will struggle for many years to rebuild their lives.”
The ICA knows this is an issue, which is why it has developed a couple of websites that help people get a grip on what we need to survive natural catastrophes and the insurance maze.
In June 2017, the ICA launched Disasters.org.au, which provides policyholders hit by a disaster with specific information and assistance. The site also helps Australians keep track of breaking news on major natural disasters and their insurance cost. We learn, for instance, that category four Cyclone Debbie, which hit Queensland’s coast in March, cost $1.613 billion (to December), with most insurance claims resulting from storms and flood damage coming from the Whitsundays.
Originally launched as a beta version, the site was fully functional for its first summer in 2017-18. Further updates were expected as the ICA assessed how the site best serves the needs of disaster-affected and vulnerable communities.
The ICA’s new disaster resource complements its Understand Insurance website, launched in November 2013. The site was created in the wake of Australia’s dreadful 2011 summer of natural disasters, which included floods in NSW, Victoria and Queensland (including the effects of Cyclone Yasi) and bushfires and floods in Western Australia. The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that natural disasters between November 2010 and February 2011 saw more than 99 per cent of Queensland disaster-declared, with 37 lives lost. The general insurance industry realised it needed to do more to help consumers understand the most common types of general insurance and take more control.
The ICA says Understand Insurance needs to be more than just a bland, static information website. It calls it a “financial capability initiative” developed with the support from the ICA board with the goal of improving the general public’s understanding of the value of insurance and how it can help their lives and their communities. Its aim is to help people make better insurance decisions; it doesn’t promote insurers’ products and it tries to provide information in something approaching plain English.
“[It’s] designed to encourage more of us to think about the risks we face and the role insurance can play.”Campbell Fuller
The web content is regularly reviewed and updated to provide information on topical issues, such as holidays, spring cleaning and renovations, and has stories covering developments in the insurance industry. Understand Insurance also reports on research on specific topics, such as underinsurance, working women, young adults, small businesses and cruise-ship travellers. These campaigns harness traditional, online and social media, and are often in partnership with organisations including Smartraveller, the Nicole Fitzsimons Foundation and the Foundation for Young Australians.
The site includes downloadable infographics, checklists and fact sheets, plus video case studies. One video puts us inside the bedroom of reality TV contestant Laurina Fleure, who now has peace of mind knowing her $10,000 shoe collection is fully insured. Not all content is this racy – there are free insurance calculators and links to helpful information on financial counselling, and how to find an insurer or broker. Sticklers for detail will find joy reading the industry’s code of practice.
Most information on the site is aimed at general consumers and small business owners, with messages tailored for specific audiences at different times of the year. This might be travel insurance advice for schoolies participants and their parents or preparation tips for people living in disaster-prone areas. The ICA says the site provides information for everyone, from school leavers wanting to buy their first motor vehicle policy, to young families insuring their family home, through to retirees travelling overseas.
Social media plays an important role in ICA’s brand awareness planning. The Understand Insurance brand features on consumer-focused advertising, and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
The ICA says that traffic to the website has grown from just 3300 unique page views per month during its first few months to about 40,000 monthly page views. It reports the number of monthly users grew from about 600 to 25,000 over the same period.
“Understand Insurance helps the community to take greater control of their insurance, with better-informed policyholders more likely to buy the product that best suits their requirements and offers appropriate protection rather than choosing the cheapest option,” says ICA’s Fuller.
“Most Australians don’t like spending much time considering their insurance needs or comparing policies. This initiative is designed to encourage more of us to think about the risks we face and the role insurance can play.”
* The ICA assures us that references to “acts of God” don’t exist in Australian insurance contracts.