Earthquake Commission and insurers in dispute

16:00, Mar 25 2011

The Insurance Council and the Earthquake Commission (EQC) are disputing who will pay what after last month's earthquake.

EQC chief executive Ian Simpson has said the February 22 quake will be counted as a new event for some but not for others, meaning some homeowners will be covered for $200,000 by EQC and others for only $100,000.

If homeowners had already been paid out $100,000 after the September earthquake, EQC would treat the February 22 quake as a new event and cover them for another $100,000 of additional damage, Simpson said.

Equally, if insurance cover rolled over between September and February, the EQC cover was reset.

But quake-hit homeowners unlucky enough not to have been assessed by the EQC after September 4 will be covered only once for $100,000. That means insurers will have to foot more of the bill.

Insurance Council chief executive Chris Ryan said he disagreed with the EQC's position.

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"That is potentially problematic for some Christchurch residents," he said.

If the EQC and insurers could not come to an agreement, there was a risk some homeowners hit twice by quakes could miss out on up to $100,000 of cover, Ryan said.

"This is the potential for a $100,000 gap."

It was still early days and there was a lot of "grey area" still to be resolved.

"There is a need for a change from the strict interpretation of the rules," Ryan said.

AMI chief customer officer Richard Hutton said few AMI customers would fall into the gap described by Ryan, but the company would cover the shortfall if necessary.

"If there's a debate to be had, it's not a debate with the customers in the middle," Hutton said.

The February earthquake had caused some insurance "complications" that would have to be worked through, he said.

IAG, which owns NZI and State Insurance, said it agreed with the EQC and was not aware of any complications.

About two weeks ago, The Press sent the EQC a series of questions asking how claims from the February 22 earthquake would interact with claims from previous earthquakes.

Yesterday, an EQC spokesman said the questions were difficult to answer because they touched on many issues that were still being discussed with the insurance industry.

"But homeowners will be recompensed one way or another."

Talks with the Insurance Council would continue next week, with any outstanding issues likely to be resolved, he said.

The Press