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10 Sep 2020

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FCA seeks legal judgement to clarify whether insurers should pay CV-19 claims made by firms

Posted on in Business News , Cycles News , Political News

More than a million businesses forced to close during the coronavirus lockdown may know whether insurers will have to pay previously rejected business interruption claims in a matter of months.

In early May the City watchdog announced it was seeking a legal judgment from the British courts to clarify whether insurers should pay claims made by firms forced to close by the lockdown.

It comes after hundreds of struggling firms banded together to launch class action lawsuits against insurers, arguing that specific clauses in their business interruption insurance policies should cover them for the income they've lost due to having to close.

However, the insurers have argued that the firms are in fact not covered - a move which has now led to the FCA's attempt to clarify what the insurance policy wordings actually mean.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is now planning to bring the first trial instance to the High Court as early as July, meaning that a judgment could be forthcoming just weeks after that. 

The FCA wrote to insurers at the start of May asking for examples of policies where they 'may consider there is no doubt about wording and decline to pay a claim, but customers may still consider there is genuine uncertainty about whether their policy provides cover'.

Over 150 different policies have been submitted, a number of which will be examined by the High Court and a judgment could then be forthcoming as early as the end of the summer.

While the FCA has clarified that the majority of business interruption customers are not covered for coronavirus, there remains a dispute over policies which contain certain 'non-damage' extensions. However, clauses for contention between firms and their insurers have arisen such as extensions that cover disruption to a business not caused by physical property damage.

Cases like this are not straightforward and there are likely to be hundreds of different policy wordings just for the area relating to business closures caused by infectious disease. According to This is Money the FCA is aiming to bring a number of test cases to the High Court in July which will include a range of policy wordings from a range of insurers for a range of business types. It is thought that judgments on enough test cases will provide very persuasive guidance on whether other insurers should pay out on similar policies.

Even if the Court rules that some policies have been triggered, one of the defences insurers will likely fall back on are so called 'trends clauses'- a key features of a traditional business interruption policy that helps to figure out how much the business is owed once they have claimed. 

Crucially however, these clauses set the damages at what the business would have earned if they hadn't closed. This is Money understands that the FCA is looking for legal clarity on this point as well as the other clauses mentioned.

This is important as it will influence the amount businesses will be entitled to receive.

It is unclear how long the court proceedings leading to a potential insurance payout could take, however, the regulator has said its court action is designed to resolve the uncertainty as 'promptly as possible'.

 

Tell us your experience

Since the 31st March members of the Independent Retailers Confederation (IRC) have been calling upon Government and insurance brokers to challenge policies where there is ambiguity.

The IRC is a well-established organisation representing over 100,000 independent retailers throughout the UK, it brings together like-minded trade associations with interests in the small and independent retail sector.

The IRC are collecting data from independent retail businesses which:

1. Have a Business Interruption clause in their insurance policy and
2. Have submitted a formal claim following the outbreak of COVOID-19 which
3. Has not been accepted by/is in dispute with the insurer

In order to highlight these issues and support the Government's request for more information, the IRC has set up an online survey, open to all independent retailers, that will help to evaluate policy ambiguity, offending insurers and the level of claims and funds under challenge.

TAKE THE SURVEY NOW

Let us know your experiences with BII by completing the online survey at indieretail.uk/business-interruption-insurance.

The IRC would also love to know if your claim has been successful, or your insurance broker/insurer have provided great service. Please let us know by emailing info@indieretail.uk.

 

 

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