The DAIMANI Journal has been unstinting in our attempts to get to the bottom of how the insurance industry has been tackling coronavirus claims. Most famously, of course, there was the insurance claim that we estimated to be over GB£ 150m for the cancellation of this year’s Wimbledon that was forced on the All England Lawn Tennis Club.
But, in the UK, much further down the food chain are the hundreds of catering companies that have not had the benefit of ‘pandemic’ protection but had assumed the financial damage done by coronavirus would be captured by ‘business interruption’ policy protection.
These hospitality catering companies large and small, and the often self-employed individuals who staff them, are the backbone of the UK’s official VIP Hospitality industry.
The controversy over policy cover has become so intense that the regulatory Financial Conduct Authority body has stepped in, as The Caterer reported.
The FCA said it has reviewed 500 relevant policies and identified a sample of 17 wordings that capture ‘the majority’ of issues under dispute. A list of 17 insurers who are understood to have issued policies within these wordings is below.
The following insurers use at least one of the policy wordings:
Allianz -American International
Argenta Syndicate Management
Royal & Sun Alliance
Of those 17 insurers, the FCA has named eight insurers who will take part in High Court test cases to determine if their business interruption policies should cover losses linked to the coronavirus.
Those eight insurers are: Arch Insurance (UK), Argenta Syndicate Management, Ecclesiastical Insurance Office, Hiscox, MS Amlin Underwriting, QBE UK, Royal & Sun Alliance and Zurich.
Christopher Woolard, interim chief executive of the FCA, said: ‘The court action we are taking is aimed at providing clarity and certainty for everyone involved in these business interruption disputes, policyholder and insurer alike. We feel it is also the quickest route to this clarity and by covering multiple policies and insurers, it will also be of most use across the market. The identification of a representative sample of policies and the agreement of insurers who underwrite them to participate in these proceedings is a major step forward in progressing the matter to court.’
In a message to the insurance industry, the FCA published guidance that set out their expectations for insurers and insurance intermediaries when handling claims and complaints for business interruption policies during the test case brought by the FCA.
The FCA have made clear that just because a policy includes Business Interruption [BI] does not mean a payout will be forthcoming.
‘Our view remains that most SME insurance policies are focused on property damage (and only have basic cover for BI as a consequence of property damage) so, at least in the majority of cases, insurers are not obliged to pay out in relation to the coronavirus pandemic. This case is focused on the remainder of policies that could be argued to include cover.
‘Policyholders should not assume that simple inclusion of their policy wording in this case will mean their policies are responsive. We are seeking a judgement that will help policyholders and insurers have a much clearer view of which business interruption policies respond to the pandemic, and those that don’t. Therefore, the court may well decide a number of these policies respond to the pandemic and others do not.’
The FCA have made available a representative policy sample, click here. If you are a UK hospitality company whose claim has been rejected and after reading the FCA sample you feel that yours should be included in the FCA's test case, or for more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with details.
Kate Nicholls, the chief executive of trade body UKHospitality, pictured, said: ‘We now have a final sprint towards the deadline, to make sure that hospitality's insurance plight is properly heard. A central ask of UKH's #Fair4Hospitality campaign is a resolution to insurance claims. With the support of leading law firm, Taylor Wessing, and Black & White Hospitality, we are urging all hospitality businesses to get in touch, so the industry's voice is heard and any relevant wording not covered by the proposed test case is included.’
Policy holders have until 15:00 BST on Friday 5 June to comment on the representative sample.
Two lawyers working on behalf of the hospitality industry made urgent pleas for this process to be taken seriously and urgently:
Rob Atkinson, lawyer at Black & White Hospitality, said: ‘We have been deluged with policies but now have this last chance to widen the scope of the court action – I urge any hospitality business that thinks it has a relevant policy to send it to us.’
Richard Bursby, partner at Taylor Wessing, added: ‘The FCA's process for this action is moving at warp speed. This is necessary so that policy holders can quickly understand their position once the court clarifies some of the key issues around what is covered. The FCA are aiming for a hearing in mid-July. However, policy holders have just days to review their policies against the FCA's representative sample.’