Wednesday, 25 October 2017 09:09

Probe into potential unlawful discrimination of people with mental health issues in Victorian travel insurance industry

The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission has launched an investigation into potential unlawful systemic discrimination against people with mental health issues by the travel insurance industry in Victoria.

The investigation will examine travel insurance policies offered in Victoria by Allianz Australia Limited, Zurich Australian Insurance Limited, QBE Insurance Group Limited and Suncorp Group Limited. These four companies make up approximately 80 per cent of the travel insurance market in Australia. Other insurers may be contacted to participate in the investigation.

Under Victorian law, people are protected from being discriminated against in the provision of goods and services on the basis of a disability, which includes mental health issues.

Companies refusing to provide someone travel insurance on the basis of their mental health issues or offering travel insurance to people with mental health issues on unfavourable terms may be unlawfully discriminating.

"With one in three Australians suffering a mental health issue in their lifetime and thousands of Australians travelling each year, these policies are potentially harmful to a significant number of people," Commissioner Kristen Hilton said.

"The travel insurance industry in Australia is a growing and profitable industry. Under Victorian law, insurers have a positive duty to eliminate discrimination as far as possible. Through this investigation we aim to ensure this positive duty is realised."

The issue of potential unlawful discrimination on the basis of mental health in travel insurance policies came to community attention as a result of the matter of Ingram v QBE Insurance (Australia) Ltd [2015] VCAT. This case is credited with influencing recently announced changes to QBE travel insurance policies

beyondblue CEO Georgie Harman said people experiencing mental health issues deserved fair treatment.

"The practice of excluding people with mental health conditions from accessing travel, income protection and life insurance policies reinforces stigma and discourages people from seeking support when they need it most," beyondblue CEO Georgie Harman said.

"With the right support and treatment, most people with depression and anxiety manage their conditions."

All four insurers have made contact with Commission to confirm they will participate in the investigation.

"We are looking forward to working with these companies to ensure that consumers with a mental health issue are offered travel insurance, to the extent possible, on the same terms as everyone else," Commissioner Hilton said.

The Commission expects to conclude its investigation in early 2018 and will publicly report on the outcome of the investigation.

If you feel like you have been discriminated because of your mental health issues, disability or another personal characteristic, you can call the Commission on 
1300 292 153, chat with us online or submit an online complaint form.

Media contact

Megan Breen
Mobile:
0447 526 642
Email: megan.breen@veohrc.vic.gov.au  

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