Calls from the community and even Legislators to address insurance issues in a post hurricane Irma BVI have not fallen on deaf ears as Premier and Minister for Finance Dr. the Hon. D. Orlando Smith announced that before the end of this month government intends to establish an Insurance Tribunal that would be tasked with addressing insurance matters.
The Premier while speaking in the House of Assembly on 14 December announced that members of the community and the industry will be appointed to the Tribunal to support residents wishing to investigate, report or have some mediation before claims are finalised.
Hon. Smith acknowledged that there has been an insurance-related public outcry: “We buy insurance for that rainy day Madame Speaker, for that time a significant event happens and we want to safeguard ourselves. We purchase insurance to protect our investment. September 6 and Hurricane Irma was more than a rainy day Madam Speaker. It is a day that still haunts many residents, and unfortunately, that trauma seems never-ending for residents battling with insurance companies.”
The Premier said that on more than one occasion government met with industry practitioners. In fact, the BVI Leader said he met with the insurance industry after hurricane Irma and the practitioners gave assurance: “Immediately following the passage of Hurricane Irma, on 11 September, I held a meeting with the Territory’s insurance providers … In that meeting, insurance companies assured the Government that they were ready to address claims and I was surprised that two companies had already started their claims process during those very uncertain days. I also received assurances that their re-insurers were prepared to pay out claims.”
The Minister of Finance said that during the meeting he stressed the urgent need to get claims processed so residents can rebuild their homes and businesses can continue to operate.
Even though Hon. Smith promised to continue to have these meetings he said that Government moved forward, and the House of Assembly on 4 December passed the Financial Services Business Continuity Act 2017 that will remedy the situation.
It was explained that within the Act there is a provision for the establishment of an Insurance Tribunal which will be asking the Financial Services Commission to complete a review of the practices of insurance companies and banks following the passage of the August floods and Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
“Out of this review, Madame Speaker, it is my hope that an understanding of procedures to date will properly inform changes to legislations and practice procedures of the industry, and particularly, more public education on insurance policies so residents understand what they are purchasing and can make informed decisions when purchasing policies or selecting an insurance or banking service provider,” Hon. Smith added.
From all indications members of the public fear that the Tribunal will suggest ways to prevent similar situations in the future but will have little or no effect on the present situation: “This is the time to carefully review the renewal of insurance licences, we cannot remain victims of flawed legislation and regulations, this mess was preventable but it happened” – a disgruntled businessman commented.