Southern Response 'smoke and mirrors'

MISCOMMUNICATION: Councillor Ali Jones.
MISCOMMUNICATION: Councillor Ali Jones.

Southern Response is using ''smoke and mirrors'' to deflect customer disputes into mediation, an insurance advocate says.

The insurer was asked to provide updates on more than 100 disputed claims raised by advocacy group Southern No Response.

Southern Response said that 11 disputed claims had been resolved, ''considerable progress'' had been made on 25, and 35 were ''progressing satisfactorily''. New approaches had been proposed for 14, while 20 remained in dispute. Five late submissions were still being processed.

The insurance company also said the Insurance and Savings Ombudsman would extend its jurisdiction on claims by Southern Response customers from a $200,000 maximum on a six-month trial.

Cases subject to legal action would be considered also.

Southern No Response spokeswoman Ali Jones said expanding mediation services was ''just smoke and mirrors''.

It was clear that Southern Response staff were "disengaged" from claimants, she said.

She urged Southern Insurance to stop deflecting the problem by ssending claimants to mediation services.

There needed to be ''conciliation and diplomacy'' on both sides, Jones said.

''It's clear many of these issues can be resolved with meaningful, intelligent, face-to-face conversations and meetings, and certainly some of them have already been resolved and progressed because of that.''

Southern Response chief executive Peter Rose said the ''vast majority'' of claims were being managed and settled ''smoothly to the mutual satisfaction of claimants and Southern Response''.

''Only a small percentage have ended up in protest and where we are wrong we admit it and take responsibility,'' he said.

Rose said he stood by the mediation options being provided at Southern Response's expense and was investigating other advocacy options as well.

A Southern No Response meeting scheduled for Tuesday  night will now be held on February 11.

Jones said it was possible a new venue or second would be needed because the 250-person limit at the Westpac Business Hub was close to being met.

The Press