25 Oct 2016

Only one third of EQC claimants satisfied, survey finds

8:01 pm on 25 October 2016

Customer satisfaction with the way the Earthquake Commission (EQC) handles claims has dropped.

The commission set itself a target for this year's annual report of getting a tick from at least 50 percent of its customers, but the result was well short of that.

Jennifer Dalziel has decided to take EQC to court.

Jennifer Dalziel is unhappy with her experience with the Earthquake Commission, and has decided to take it to court. Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

Its report for the year to June (PDF, 2.8MB - part two of two) showed about 34 percent were happy with their experience - a fall from last year, when 44 percent said they were satisfied.

Jennifer Dalziel is among the two thirds of clients unhappy about their experiences, after she approached the agency about its failure to properly repair her home.

"What they do is just keep fobbing people off, that it's gone to the engineers, that it's gone for a review and now we have to send someone else out, and there's a six-month time lag between each of those things happening.

"So after three years people are no further ahead."

Ms Dalziel had now decided to take EQC to court.

"I can't see anybody making any headway on their own, they will just fob you off forever with this story and that story.

"The last engineer that came, he said to me, why did you file in the High Court when you were already in the remedial queue.

"And I said because I'd been waiting for a year and nothing had happened."

EQC's outgoing chief executive, Ian Simpson.

Ian Simpson Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

EQC's outgoing chief executive, Ian Simpson, said the poor customer service result was mostly down to the time people were waiting to have claims settled.

This was not something it had a lot of control over, he said.

"It's going to be very hard to get them to feel happy about the process if they've been waiting for a number of years.

"So the best thing we can do is do the best we can for those customers, and then make sure the hard-fought lessons that we've learned are implemented into future responses."

In February, a report from the Human Rights Commission labelled the way EQC dealt with customers as being substandard - and found that its handling of information from customers was inefficient and ineffective.

Asked what EQC had changed to address those matters, Mr Simpson could not name any specific measures.

"We're not sitting and just waiting for a report to inform what we do, we're making a whole raft of changes based on our experience and based on listening to our customers ... I can't say we made those 12 changes because of that report.

"We take it into the mix along with all of the lessons we've learned."

Improvements to the way it handled claims, aimed at speeding up the process, would be introduced at the end of this year, almost six years after the 2011 earthquakes - but these would not help Cantabrians already caught up in EQC's claims processes.

It would not have been possible to introduce these changes earlier to provide some relief for Christchurch homeowners, Mr Simpson said.

Labour MP Megan Woods during caucas run April 2015.

Labour Party spokesperson Megan Woods: "What we have seen from EQC this year is a whittling down of the numbers here" Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

"It's just high-risk to try and switch systems during such an active period. So it was the best thing for people in Canterbury that we kept a stable platform in order to manage through this process and then use the lessons to build the new system."

Labour Party Canterbury spokesperson Megan Woods questioned why EQC was reducing its staff in Christchurch, when there were now about 6500 claims requesting it come back and fix missed or botched quake repairs.

"The government does have the opportunity to put project management around the existing claims and make sure they get settled," she said.

"But instead what we have seen from EQC this year is a whittling down of the numbers here. I think that that was premature, I think it shows a lack of commitment to Canterbury and getting this sorted."

The minister responsible for EQC, Gerry Brownlee, was overseas and was not available to be interviewed.

Mr Simpson will leave EQC at the end of the year to take up a new role as the head of GNS Science.

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