FCA seeks legal clarity on business interruption insurance

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has today announced it intends to seek legal clarity on business interruption insurance to resolve doubt for businesses who are facing uncertainty on their claims.

FCA seeks legal clarity on business interruption insurance

Christopher Woolard, interim chief executive of the FCA

It is also proposing a series of measures to support both consumers and businesses who hold insurance products and who are facing other issues as a result of coronavirus.

The package of measures sets out the FCA’s expectations that insurance firms should consider whether their products still offer value to customers in the current situation and whether they can be doing more for those suffering a financial impact because of coronavirus.   

Christopher Woolard, interim chief executive of the FCA, said: “We have been clear that we believe in the majority of cases, business interruption insurance was not purchased to, and is unlikely to, cover the current emergency. However, there remain a number of policies where it is clear that the firm has an obligation to pay out on a policy.

“For these policies, it is important that claims are assessed and settled quickly. There are also some other policies where firms 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.

“Our intended court action is designed to resolve a selected number of key issues causing uncertainty as promptly as possible and to provide greater clarity for all parties, both insured and insurers. It is clear that decisive action is appropriate given the severity of the potential consequences for customers.

“In addition to this court action, the current emergency has altered the value of some insurance products and we believe that insurers should be looking at both whether their products still offer value. Firms should also look at how they can help customers who may be experiencing financial difficulties as a result of the virus.

“Many insurers are already taking some kind of action to assist their customers and we want to see a degree of consistency for consumers. Today’s proposed guidance and statement aims to make our expectations clear to all firms in the insurance market and provide future certainty.”

The FCA is publishing a separate statement today on BI insurance. It outlines that the FCA intends to seek a court declaration, on an agreed and urgent basis, to resolve uncertainty for many customers making BI claims, and the basis on which firms are making decisions to accept claims.

The FCA is seeking to bring to court what it believes are the key relevant cases which provide the greatest clarity on specific policy clauses as soon as possible to get an independent view on these disputed BI insurance policies if there remains unresolved uncertainty. The cases placed before the court will be carefully chosen as a representative sample of the most frequently used policy wordings that are giving rise to uncertainty.

The FCA will seek to put cases before the Court on an agreed basis with the insurers concerned in order to get the fastest possible judgement. Individuals can still access the Financial Ombudsman or the courts if they qualify and wish to do so.

The additional guidance proposals are designed to provide consumers with temporary support in the light of the exceptional circumstances arising from coronavirus and follow steps the FCA has taken in other markets such as credit cards, overdrafts and personal loans.

This package of measures sets out how the FCA expects insurance firms to:

  • Ensure products continue to offer value and are appropriate for customers taking into account the impact of coronavirus taking into account the firm’s ability to deliver the benefits promised.
  • Help individual customers who may be finding it difficult to pay their insurance premiums or meet their premium finance payments as a result of coronavirus.
  • Read all of our articles relating to COVID-19 here.
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