QBE insurance fines worth hundreds of thousands of dollars waived by ACT government 

The ACT government has written off hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines clocked up by a major QBE insurance company for failing to lodge annual returns on its home owners’ warranty insurance scheme for almost a decade.
Planning and Land Management Minister, Mick Gentleman, said Access Canberra considered the breaches too minor to warrant prosecution.
QBE Insurance is one of two providers of home warranty insurance in Canberra. The other is the Master Builders Association.
QBE’s policies only cover homeowners against faulty work for five years, one year less than the statutory six-year warranty builders must provide. MBA’s policy mirrors the statutory warranty provisions.
Home warranty insurance cover only kicks in if problems arise and a builder has died, gone broke or disappeared.
In order to be able to offer the lucrative policies, QBE is required, under the ACT Building Act [2004], to file annual returns detailing the number of claims received, the number rejected and the reasons why, with Access Canberra.
A Fairfax investigation into QBE’s failure to pay out on structural faults in a home owned by John and Maria Ireland in Forde found no returns had ever been lodged.
Under the Act the penalty for non-lodgement can be up to $70,000 a year.
QBE has a history of playing hard ball with home warranty insurance policy holders in Canberra, stonewalling clients of failed builder Sublime Constructions for years even though the ACT government said their claims should be honoured.
Mr Gentleman told Fairfax that QBE was only required to lodge statements from 2008-2009 when the first claims under its policies were made.
“In total seven statements were outstanding,” he said. “All information has now been provided, including the current statement for 2015-2016 that was submitted prior to July 31, 2016.”
The minister refused to say how many claims had been lodged with QBE, how many had been refused and the reasons why they had been refused.
He defended Access Canberra’s decision not to impose a penalty.
“Under the Building Act the only option available to Access Canberra is to prosecute QBE,” Mr Gentleman said.
“It was deemed not [in] the public interest to commit a significant amount of the Territory’s resources to bring a minor matter of this nature to court.”
Mr Ireland, who said he was still waiting to hear back from Mr Gentleman and Chief Minister Andrew Barr regarding the discrepancy between the policy QBE provides and the statutory builders’ warranty, doesn’t believe this is good enough.
“If I didn’t pay my rates or a speeding fine they’d prosecute me quickly enough,” he said. “QBE clocked up a lot more than a rates bill or a speeding fine.”
He said it was not a good look when the government chose to go soft on a major corporation.
“When a government waives large fines for big business it creates an unfortunate perception. It also leaves me thinking that we’re not important and this government just doesn’t care about `little people’ like us.”
Mr Gentleman said Access Canberra had decided not to pursue the fines “after careful assessment against [its] accountability commitment” and that when advised of the breach QBE had provided the statements within two days.
There is no provision under the Building Act for an infringement notice to be issued for the breach.

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