Southern Response promises rethink

CHARLES ANDERSON
Last updated 06:16 14/12/2013
Geoff Mardon Southern response protester
ALI JONES
TOO OLD TO WAIT: Geoff Mardon, who has pneumonia, joined the Protest at Southern Response. He and his wife are still waiting for resolution on their claim with Southern response.

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Southern Response will change the way it deals with its insurance claimants in the wake of a protest which saw 100 angry customers hand their grievances to its chief executive.

Peter Rose said the protest had "crystallised" a new dispute management policy which will allow claimants to request their complete costing information used to calculate their rebuild or repair.

The protest group will return to Southern Response's Addington office on Monday seeking an update on claims.

Ninety-nine claimants submitted an ultimatum on December 2 - 50 in person and 49 by email.

Rose said Southern Response was working with the Insurance and Savings Ombudsman to have it consider complaints up to an unlimited value rather than the normal $200,000 limit.

The company was also asking the ombudsman to determine costs such as temporary accommodation or legal and expert expenses in customers' claims, he said.

"It's arisen as a result of the protest but we have been working on our dispute management policy for quite some time," Rose said.

He hoped to disprove people who thought the company's intention was to "suffocate" them by forcing them to go to court for a resolution.

"It's putting our actions where our mouths are."

Providing full financial information gave an opportunity to "engage" with customers and stop "standoffs".

Rose had been reluctant to provide that information earlier because it would enable customers to "pick us off"' for disputed items.

"If that is the case then so be it; we will just have to battle with them on a case by case basis."

The policy changes were not an apology but a "thank- you" to customers, he said.

Protest organiser Steve Gurney described Monday's return to Southern Response as "crunch time".

"We've given Southern Response a real opportunity to come clean and sort the mess they've made of people's lives," he said.

"The protest could get very fiery if there are significant numbers of customers still dissatisfied."

Rose did not think the protests were representative of all Southern Response's customers.

According to the company's latest figures, 2639 of its 6758 customers had been fully settled.

"Sometimes we drop the ball. We need to make sure we pick it up," he said.

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