Australians unaware of how misuse of car insurance policies can cause further harm in domestic and family violence situations

23 November 2023

WARNING: POTENTIALLY DISTURBING CONTENT

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  • To mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (25 November 2023), Allianz research reveals 72% of surveyed Australian car owners are not aware of the domestic and family violence (DFV) risks associated with a joint car insurance policy1.
  • Despite Australians saying their car makes them feel comfortable, safe2 and gives them a sense of freedom3, using a car as a means of economic and other abuse is perceived as the least common DFV tactic amongst4 Australians.
  • Allianz has partnered with the Gendered Violence Research Network, UNSW Sydney to produce a new report on the connection between cars, car insurance and DFV.

Most surveyed Australian car owners (79%) say they can’t imagine life without their car, with 91% saying it’s reassuring to know their car is ready and available to them in an emergency.

Yet alarmingly, new research from Allianz Australia reveals almost three-quarters (72%) of surveyed car owners are not aware of the domestic and family violence (DFV) risks associated with a joint car insurance policy. In Australia, close to two in five Australian car owners jointly own their car5, typically with their partner or spouse (87%).

While isolating (48%), assaulting (32%) and intimidating victims (16%) have been ranked as the most common tactics, using a car as a means of economic and other abuse is seen by only 5% of surveyed Australian car owners as the most common tactic. In particular, Australians are unaware that removing a victim’s name from a joint policy (59%), cancelling a joint policy without consent (57%), refusing to service the car or make necessary repairs (51%) and draining the petrol from a car (51%) are common car related tactics in DFV situations.

Australian car owners agree that insurers should be doing more to support customers that are victims of DFV situations (77%), with two thirds saying it’s important for car insurance companies to be more vocal about how a car can be used as a means of abuse (67%). Australians also want to be more aware of how insurance providers can support them in DFV situations (72%).

In addition to the Allianz research, a new research report (PDF, 4.8 MB) by the Gendered Violence Research Network (GVRN) at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), in partnership with Allianz, shows a connection between cars, car insurance and DFV. This report follows a 2021 study that delved into “Understanding family violence and risks of Insurance (PDF, 1.3 MB)”.

Sema Whittle, General Manager, Corporate Governance and Sustainability, from Allianz Australia, said, “Australians feel comfortable and safe in their cars6. It also gives them a sense of freedom7. It is alarming that this safe space can be used to make people feel the exact opposite. We’ve continued our partnership with the GVRN at UNSW, Sydney to ensure that we are supporting our customers in the best way possible and driving awareness of this important issue within the community.”

According to the UNSW research, cars are often used as DFV tactics. The research surveyed workers in the DFV space, who noted that partners, ex-partners or family members may intentionally damage the victim-survivor’s vehicle, prevent the victim-survivor from accessing funds needed to use the vehicle or track the victim-survivor’s vehicle.

The research also analysed Allianz DFV customer files; the most common tactics identified were similar to those reported by DFV workers and included the perpetrators intentionally causing damage to the vehicle, stealing or using the vehicle without the victim-survivor’s consent and intentionally causing an accident with the vehicle.8

This is particularly alarming as all DFV workers surveyed were aware of victim survivors using a vehicle to escape from a violent relationship9. This is backed by the Allianz research, with 83% of surveyed Australians agreeing that a car can be used to help victims make a quick escape.

As lead researcher on this project and co-convenor of GVRN, Professor Jan Breckenridge, said, “It is concerning to see how DFV is continuing to affect Australians and the community we live in. Now more than ever it is imperative that we continue to educate ourselves and learn about the risks that victims in these situations can face, especially to help support loved ones that may be going through it currently.”

Allianz has a family violence policy designed to help customers in DFV situations when dealing with Allianz. Through this policy, Allianz can provide customers in need with a specialist case manager and sensitive claims handling. For joint policies in particular, Allianz will share customers in need what their rights are under the policy and help to set up a new policy for the customer.

Allianz is also implementing a number of changes recommended as part of the UNSW research, including the addition of the ‘conduct of others’ clause in all product disclosure statements from 3 December 2023. Allianz may, in some circumstances, pay claims which arise from a wrongful act by a family member in circumstances such as DFV or mental illness that would otherwise trigger an exclusion and denial of the claim, when the cover has been varied or terminated with malicious intent.

To better support their staff, Allianz is establishing a DFV officer network to provide support to employees who are experiencing DFV and would like to seek support in a confidential way. This is complemented by a new e-learning module, created in partnership with GVRN, a DFV employee and leader guide, as well as paid leave for victim survivors.

“Our approach reflects the expectations Australians have of insurance companies to support customers – and our employees – who are victim-survivors in domestic and family violence situations. Our support includes assisting victim-survivors in creating a new policy separate to the perpetrator10, considering all circumstances that led to the claim11, and applying additional protections for the policy12. We’re also making several changes to our processes recommended in the UNSW report to better support our vulnerable customers as well as our people,” continued Sema Whittle.

To read the UNSW report, learn about the most common ways cars are used in DFV situations, and steps potential victim survivors can take to mitigate these risks, head to allianz.com.au/familyviolencesupport.

For any media enquiries, journalists can contact our Media team.
An online survey was conducted by Pureprofile with a nationally representative sample of 1,010 Australian car owners, between 3 to 6 November 2023.
  1. An online survey was conducted by Pure Profile with a nationally representative sample of 1,010 Australian car owners, between 3 to 6 November 2023
  2. 47% of Australians that own a car say their car is a space where I feel comfortable and safe
  3. 77% of Australian car owners agree to describe their car as something that gives them a sense of freedom
  4. 5% of Australian car owners identified using a car as a means of economic and other abuse as a common DFV tactic
  5. 38% of Australian car owners jointly own their car
  6. 47% of Australians feel safe and comfortable in their cars
  7. 77% of Australians agree to describe their car as something that gives them a sense of freedom
  8. UNSW Gendered Violence Research Network, ‘Intersections between domestic and family violence, motor vehicles and insurance: Final Report’, June 2023
  9. UNSW Gendered Violence Research Network, ‘Intersections between domestic and family violence, motor vehicles and insurance: Final Report’, June 2023
  10. 58% of Australians who own a car feel their insurance company can help by assisting victims in creating a new policy separate to the perpetrator
  11. 46% of Australians who own a car feel their insurance company can help considering all circumstances leading to the claim
  12. 43% of Australians who own a car feel their insurance company can help by applying additional protections for the policy
Allianz Australia delivers a wide range of personal, commercial and corporate insurance products and services to more than 4 million policyholders. It also provides support for workers compensation insurance to around 25% of the top 200 ASX companies, making it one of the leading workers compensation insurers in Australia.

The Allianz Group is one of the world’s leading insurers and asset managers with 126 million* private and corporate customers in more than 70 countries. Allianz customers benefit from a broad range of personal and corporate insurance services, ranging from property, life and health insurance to assistance services to credit insurance and global business insurance. Allianz is one of the world’s largest investors, managing around 802 billion euros on behalf of its insurance customers. Furthermore, our asset managers PIMCO and Allianz Global Investors manage 1.9 trillion euros of third-party assets. Thanks to our systematic integration of ecological, social and governance criteria in our business processes and investment decisions, we hold the leading position for insurers in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, launched on 12.11.2021. In 2020, over 150,000 employees achieved total revenues of 140 billion euros and an operating profit of 10.8 billion euros for the group. These assessments are, as always, subject to the disclaimer provided below.

*Including non-consolidated entities with Allianz customers.

This article has been prepared by Allianz Australia Insurance Limited ABN 15 000 122 850 AFSL234708 (“Allianz”). In some cases, information has been provided to us by third parties and while that information is believed to be accurate and reliable, its accuracy is not guaranteed in any way.

Any opinions expressed constitute our views at the time of issue and are subject to change. Neither Allianz, nor its employees or directors give any warranty of accuracy or accept responsibility for any loss or liability incurred by you in respect of any error, omission or misrepresentation in this article.
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