Ross Parsons Corporate Law Seminar Series: Professor Robert Merkin

23 October 2012

Should consumer protection laws be extended to insurance contracts?

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Consumer policyholders have a high degree of protection in Australia. The Insurance Contracts Act 1984 (Cth), although not primarily a consumer measure, has its greatest impact in consumer cases and precludes reliance by insurers on defences made available by the worst excesses of the common law and freedom of contract principles. Operating alongside the 1984 Act is the General Insurance Code of Practice, as revised with effect from July 2012, promulgated by the Insurance Council of Australia. The evidence is that some 98% of consumer claims are paid.

The Unfair Contract Terms (UCT) laws, which were implemented in all Australian states and territories by 1 January 2011 as Subdivision BA of the Australian Securities and Investment Act 2001 (Cth), strike down unfair terms in standard form consumer contracts in a manner similar to that found in the UK's Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 and Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977. The Australian UCT legislation does not apply to insurance contracts, by reason of the exclusion of other legislation in s 15 of ICA 1984.

Australia is now in its third year of consultation on the question of whether UCT should extend to insurance contracts or whether the existing regime for insurance contracts is adequate for the purpose. This seminar provides a UK perspective on the issue, examining the UK's experience of extending consumer legislation to insurance contracts and suggesting other possible ways forward.


Robert Merkin is Professor of Commercial Law at the University of Southampton and consultant to international law firm Norton Rose. He has written a number of books on insurance and reinsurance, and is a regular speaker on these subjects in many jurisdictions. In 2009 he delivered the Geoff Masel Memorial Lectures sponsored by the Australian Insurance Law Association, in 2010 he was awarded AILA's annual prize for contribution to Australian insurance law and in 2011 he gave the Richard Cooper Memorial Lecture in Brisbane. Rob is presently working, with Ian Enright, on the Fourth Edition of Sutton's Insurance Law in Australia.

Professor Merkin is President of the British Insurance Law Association, Vice-President of the International Association of Insurance Law and consultant to the English and Scottish Law Commissions.

Commentator: Rehana Box Partner, Ashurst.

Lawyers/barristers: attendance at this lecture is equal to 1.25 MCLE/CPD units.

Time: 6.15-7.30pm (5.45pm regsistration and refreshments)

Location: Minter Ellison Room, Level 13 Old Law School, St James Campus, Phillip St, Sydney

Cost: Full $77; Sydney Law School Alumni $66; Sydney Law School Students $44; Group (3+) $55 inc gst

Contact: PLaCE Coordinator

Phone: 02 9351 0323

Email: 2625051b2c2c1f243e361a3413172f321a6527033b563b31