The FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) are seeking legal clarity on business interruption insurance during the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.
The coronavirus pandemic has led to widespread disruption and business closures resulting in substantial financial loss. Many customers have made claims for these losses under their BI insurance policies. There has been widespread concern about the lack of clarity and certainty for some customers making these claims, and the basis on which some firms are making decisions in relation to claims.
The issues surrounding BI policies are complex and have the potential to create ongoing uncertainty for both customers and firms. The variation in the types of cover provided and wordings used mean it can be difficult to determine whether customers have cover and can make a valid claim. There are genuine doubts over the appropriate interpretation of the wording in some cases. This has led to uncertainty and disputes, with many customers who believe they have valid claims having these rejected by their insurer.
The FCA believes the circumstances of the current coronavirus emergency, and its effect on businesses holding BI policies means this uncertainty needs to be resolved as quickly as possible. They intend to obtain court declarations as part of a test case, aimed at resolving the contractual uncertainty around the validity of many BI claims.
The test case
The result of the test case will be legally binding on the insurers that are parties to the test case in respect of the interpretation of the representative sample of policy wordings considered by the court. It will also provide persuasive guidance for the interpretation of similar policy wordings and claims, that can be taken into account in other court cases including in Scotland and Northern Ireland, by the Financial Ombudsman Service and by the FCA in looking at whether insurers are handling claims fairly.
The test case is not intended to encompass all possible disputes, but to resolve some key contractual uncertainties and ‘causation’ issues to provide clarity for policyholders and insurers. It will not determine how much is payable under individual policies, but will provide the basis for doing so.