ClearView breached anti-hawking law 300k times

The sixth round of the financial services Royal Commission heard ClearView's direct life insurance business breached anti-hawking provisions up to 303,000 times.

The figure has ballooned from the 278,664 originally reported to the Commission, according to ClearView chief actuary and risk officer Gregory Martin, who took the witness stand this afternoon.

Martin told counsel assisting Rowena Orr that ClearView "got [it] wrong" and "made a mistake" because it simply didn't understand it was breaching anti-hawking provisions prohibited by the Corporations Act.

Breaching the provision amounts to a criminal offence, Orr pointed out.

In early February 2018, ClearView announced it would refund $1.5 million to thousands of customers as a result of poor sales practises.

It notified ASIC its call centre staff used unfair and high pressure sales tactics to sell life insurers direct to consumers between 1 January 2014 and 30 June 2017.

Of 32,000 life insurance policies sold, ASIC said 1166 were to consumers residing in areas with high indigenous populations that were unlikely to speak English as their first language.

A year earlier, ASIC was troubled they didn't know exactly how many customers were affected by the sales practices and consequently how many times ClearView breached the provision.

In 42 ClearView sales calls reviewed, ASIC said the staff engaged in "manipulative" tactics and pressured customers to acquiesce to a buy an insurance policy.

In one telephone call Orr played, the sales agent used fast-paced and inaudible language that confused customers yet ended up committing the customer to purchasing a policy. Martin conceded this was "completely unacceptable."

Today, Martin confirmed the number of inappropriate telephone calls made stands between 300,000 to 303,000 over the three years.

Breaking this down, Martin said this figure comprised about 244,000 phone calls were made to using a customer list supplied by Bupa (ClearView is the result of the 2010 acquisition of Bupa Australia's life insurance and wealth management businesses by MMC Contrarian).

Additional phone calls were made by ClearView using customer contact information it bought from third parties. These providers were Bradford Exchange, Value Add and Greater Data - they supplied about 17,000 contacts collectively.

Martin factored in an additional 25,000 phone calls customers took.

Boiler room sales tactics were the focus of a recent ASIC investigation into the sector, which found direct-to-customer sale practices and products of 11 life insurance providers offered little to no value.

ClearView was among the providers; it also included CommInsure, NobleOak Life, TAL Life, and OnePath, and St Andrew's Life Insurance.

In its report, ASIC highlighted its concerns with providers downgrading accidental death policies that were sold to customers who didn't understand the cover or meet their needs.

Martin admitted that he didn't read the report in depth - only the executive summary.

Read more: ClearViewASICBupaRoyal CommissionBradford ExchangeBupa AustraliaCommInsureGreater DataGregory MartinMMC ContrarianNobleOak LifeOnePathRowena OrrSt AndrewTAL Life
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