Customer Vulnerability and Financial Hardship Policy
Last updated: 15 November 2021
This policy applies to the following companies:
- Marsh Pty Ltd (ACN 004 651 652);
- Marsh & McLennan Agency Pty Ltd (ACN 000 668 584);
- Victor Insurance Australia Pty Ltd (ACN 161 243 198);
- Marsh Advantage Insurance Pty Ltd (ACN 081 358 303);
- Mercury Insurance Services (ACN 007 332 461);
- JLT Risk Solutions Pty Ltd (ACN 009 098 864);
- Echelon Australia Pty Ltd (ACN 085 720 056);
- Victor Insurance Pty Ltd (ACN 146 607 838);
- JLT Group Services Pty Ltd (ACN 004 485 214); and
- The Recovre Group Pty Ltd (ACN 003 330 167).
All references to Marsh, we, our, us etc. should be construed as a reference to the relevant entity.
Marsh recognises that a customer’s vulnerability can impact their interaction with Marsh and Marsh is committed to helping and supporting people experiencing vulnerability by taking ‘extra care’ with them through such interaction. The purpose of this policy is to:
- outline Marsh’s internal processes and procedures which have been implemented to help minimise the risk of harm in Marsh’s interactions with customers who are experiencing vulnerability; and
- help ensure that Marsh provides those customers with timely, consistent and targeted assistance.
For the purposes of this policy, ‘customer’ includes an individual insured, or a third party beneficiary, or member of an insurance product or other financial product Marsh issues, arranges or deals in. It also includes a client or customer or potential client or customer of Marsh, or an individual from which Marsh is seeking to recover money.
Marsh also recognises that family and domestic violence is one aspect that can particularly impact upon a customer’s vulnerability. For this reason, whilst all the procedures outlined within this policy apply equally to those experiencing family or domestic violence, Marsh also has specific procedures it implements to assist customers experiencing family and domestic violence. Where relevant, those procedures are outlined within this policy.
A vulnerable customer is a customer who, due to a certain factor or characteristic they possess, can experience harm or disadvantage in their interaction with Marsh or in their insurance arrangements more generally. A person’s vulnerability may be due to a range of factors such as: age; disability; mental health conditions; physical health conditions; domestic or family violence; language barriers; literacy barriers; cultural background; Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander status; remote location; or financial distress. This is not an exhaustive definition.
As noted above, experiencing domestic or family violence is a specific type of vulnerability. Domestic violence refers to acts of violence by a family member. This violence can include threats and intimidation and may be sexual abuse, financial or economic abuse, emotional or psychological abuse, social abuse and/or damage to property. The Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) defines ‘family violence’ as ‘violent, threatening or other behaviour by a person that coerces or controls a member of the person’s family… or causes the family member to be fearful’.
Marsh Employees who deal with vulnerable customers as defined by this policy will receive mandatory training. This training module helps our employees:
- identify and understand if a customer may be vulnerable;
- decide how best and to what extent we can support that customer;
- take account for a customer’s particular needs in relation to their vulnerability; and
- engage with a vulnerable customer with sensitivity, dignity, respect and compassion.
Identification of vulnerable customers
At Marsh, we understand that customers may be reluctant or unable to disclose that they are experiencing vulnerability. As outlined above, Marsh employees receive training to teach them to identify certain signs that may indicate a customer is experiencing vulnerability. It will also teach them techniques to facilitate an environment where customers experiencing vulnerability feel comfortable to disclose their circumstances, as well as other techniques to improve the customer’s experience. In particular, our employees must not require evidence of vulnerability, such as an intervention order or medical certificate, from the customer before they enact the procedures set out in this policy. Instead, we utilise these procedures if a customer self-identifies as experiencing vulnerability or we recognise signs or otherwise identify that the customer may be vulnerable. Having adequate identification processes in place also allows Marsh to best select the course of action appropriate to the vulnerable customer as outlined within this policy. For example, employees can treat claims as a matter of priority, organise/provide financial hardship help, escalate an issue to a more senior person, or refer the customer to specialist services for further guidance.
Interaction with vulnerable customers
Once we identify customers who may be experiencing vulnerability, we interact with them in a supportive manner. Therefore, we aim to always engage in careful and sensitive conversations with vulnerable customers. We keep such conversations confidential and ensure the confidential handling of all private and confidential information collected about a customer who may be experiencing vulnerability. This is particularly important in relation to customers experiencing family and domestic violence so that we do not disclose to the perpetrator of such violence that we are aware of the violence or other personal details of the customer that may enable the perpetrator to continue the family violence The training provided to our employees covers methods to interact with customers who have been identified as vulnerable to ensure that support, sensitivity and confidentiality are always maintained in our communications with them.
In our communications with customers affected by family or domestic violence, we aim to minimise the amount of times a customer has to disclose their family violence situation. We do not wish for customers to have to repeat their disclosures as we understand that reliving the experience can be uncomfortable and even traumatising. To do this, we may flag a customer’s account when we have identified that they may be affected by family violence. This also allows us to maintain that customer’s confidentiality and privacy more effectively, and implement specific security measures. We have internal procedures addressing confidentiality, privacy and security in relation to customers experiencing vulnerability. For example, before we communicate with customers about such issues, we will need to be sure of their identification and we do adopt security measures to ensure this.
We would like to make our customers aware of some strategies that can help us in our interactions with those who are affected by vulnerability. Specifically please:
- let us know if you would prefer to speak to a specific employee. We understand that, if you have opened up to an employee about your circumstance in the past, it would likely be more comfortable for you to make any further communications about your circumstances to them. We also understand that you might want to open up about these issues to an employee of a specific gender only;
- tell us if you need additional support from someone else (for example, a lawyer, consumer representative, interpreter or friend) in your interaction with us. As we are aware customers experiencing vulnerability may need a support person, we will recognise this and allow for it in all reasonable ways. Customers who need an interpreter can use a free government phone interpreting service called the TIS National interpreting Service available at https://www.tisnational.gov.au/. This link and further information about interpreting services is available on our website.
- tell us if you find it difficult to adhere to our identification processes. We are aware people from an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander community or a non-English speaking background might not have the identification documents that we require from them in certain circumstances. In such circumstances, we will take reasonable measures to support those customers by ensuring our processes for identification and verification are flexible; and
- also let us know if, when we are communicating with you about issues relating to family or domestic violence, you are not in a position to talk about such issues. This may be the case because the perpetrator is present or may be monitoring your calls or mobile phone usage. We will not communicate with you about these issues over email or over the internet generally because of the sensitivity of the matter and the possibility that other people within your family (the perpetrator or otherwise) may have access to your email account or internet browser.
Financial hardship help
Some customers may be vulnerable because they are experiencing financial hardship. A customer is experiencing financial hardship when they have difficulty meeting their financial obligations to us or their insurer. If a customer is experiencing financial hardship they may be entitled to financial hardship support. The support that we provide does not include support with paying the premiums under an insurance policy, but we will refer this matter to the insurer. A customer also has a right to ask us to fast-track a claim if they have an urgent financial need to have that claim paid. We must do what is reasonably possible to accommodate this.
For a customer to apply for financial hardship support, they must fill out a form located here. Once complete, this form will be sent to the Marsh Customer Vulnerability Officer who can be contacted at:
Phone: (02) 7252 2450
We will notify the customer in writing of our decision on their financial hardship support application, unless we have asked them for additional information. If we do ask for additional information, the customer has 21 calendar days from the date of that request to provide the information, unless otherwise agreed. If the customer provides the requested information, we will, within 21 calendar days of receiving that information, provide written notice communicating our decision on the customer’s financial hardship support application to the customer. If the customer does not provide all the information within the designated 21 calendar days, then we will communicate our decision on the customer’s financial hardship support application in writing within 7 calendar days of that deadline passing. If we are taking action to recover an amount from a customer, we will put that action on hold while we are assessing the customer’s application for financial hardship support.
Where it is decided that a customer is to receive financial hardship support, then we will work with that customer (and, where relevant, the insurer) to implement an arrangement that could include any one or more of the following:
- waiving our service fees;
- our release or discharge of the customer’s debt to us;
- delaying the date on which a payment must be made by the customer;
- the customer paying us in instalments;
- the payment of a reduced lump sum amount;
- the delay of one or more instalment payments for an arranged period;
- deducting the excess from the claim amount;
- waiving the excess; and/or
- expediting a claims payment.
We make no guarantee that any application for financial hardship support will be accepted and, in many cases, where we are not the issuer of the product or acting on their behalf, we will not be able to grant the type of assistance sought. For example, if we are not acting on behalf of the insurer, any help in relation to premium payments will be granted at the discretion of the insurer and we will refer your application to the insurer.
We are also aware that customers who experience family or domestic violence may also experience financial hardship, particularly where they are a victim of financial abuse. We will aim to determine whether, due to a customer’s circumstance of experiencing family or domestic violence, a customer is experiencing financial hardship. If a customer is experiencing financial hardship due to family violence, we will work with them (and the insurer) with the aim of formulating options so that they can retain their policy if they cannot pay their premium. These options may include:
- changing the benefit structure or the sum insured of the policy;
- reducing the benefits of the policy; and
- pausing premium payments, without cancelling the policy.
Where we are assessing a request for financial hardship assistance for a customer experiencing family or domestic violence, and the perpetrator is a joint policy holder, we will not need the consent of the perpetrator to conduct the assessment. If a customer cannot obtain the relevant documents usually required to undertake a financial hardship assessment due to their circumstance of experiencing family violence, we will take this into account.
In certain circumstances, we will not be well-placed to provide help or support to persons experiencing vulnerability, particularly outside the scope of the financial relationship Marsh has with the customer. Where employees identify that this is the case, they will refer the customer to external legal or support organisations. A list of external organisations which may be helpful to customers experiencing vulnerability is provided below.
- Kildonan UnitingCare
- 1800 RESPECT
- Lifeline (13 11 14)
- Beyond Blue
Australian Capital Territory
- Legal Aid ACT
- Aboriginal Legal Service ACT
New South Wales
- NSW Health Education Centre Against Violence
- Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Service
- Gendered Violence Research Network, UNSW
- Ask LOIS (Women’s Legal Service NSW)
- LawAccess NSW
- Legal Aid NSW
- Aboriginal Legal Service NSW
- Northern Territory Legal Aid Commission
- Queensland Centre for Domestic and Family Violence Research
- Legal Aid Queensland
- Legal Services Commission of South Australia
- Legal Aid Commission of Tasmania
- Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria
- Victoria Legal Aid
- Women’s Council for Domestic and Family Violence Services
- Legal Aid WA