Consumers now have stronger and clearer rights when it comes to purchasing insurance products such as crop insurance, thanks to a new general insurance code of practice put in place on 1 July.

Under the new system, buyers will also find making claims and resolving complaints a clearer process – something sure to be welcomed by consumers and businesses.

The 2014 General Insurance Code of Practice has been launched by the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA), and will set a benchmark for Australian industry self-regulation. Key to the new code is the fact that insurers will be held to higher service standards than before, more so than the Insurance Contracts Act of 1984.

Board President of the ICA Mark Milliner spoke about the benefits of the new code, and the process to bring it to completion.

“The insurance industry has delivered a Code of Practice that is a yardstick for industry self-regulation, which is especially important given the Federal Government’s focus on reducing regulation and red tape for business,” Mr Milliner said.

He went on to explain that independent reviews and extensive consultations were required with a number of consumer groups and insurance industry regulators.

“This Code is the result of several years’ work, starting with an independent and intensive review of the previous Code by financial services lawyer Ian Enright and extensive consultation by him and the ICA,” he said.

The code has been reviewed several times in the past: in 1998, 2006, 2009 and 2012. Frequent reviews are essential, given the changing nature of the industry since the code’s inception in 1994.

The General Insurance Code of Practice has already come into effect, and ICA members (as well as other code participants) have 12 months to transition to the revised code.