I always liked Fandango’s Who Won the Week post, and like to join in with some quirky stories from my own newsfeeds. All from our unique vantage points, the idea is to pick something (a person, organisation, anything) which “won” the week.
Can I do a serious one this week?
Many smaller businesses bought into a product called Business Continuity insurance. Many of these policies contained clauses which covered the business against “disease” interrupting their business.
No surprise, therefore, that when we first went into Lockdown, there were a flood of claims.
The insurance companies refused to pay up. One of their arguments was that COVID-19 was so unforeseen that they could not possibly be expected to cover firms’ costs. Now, when I first heard this, I was flabbergasted. Surely the whole point of buying insurance is to protect against the unforeseen?
Fortunately, many pissed-off businesses felt the same, and convinced the UK regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority, to bring a test case. They put forward a range of policy wordings, to settle what was and was not covered.
The case initially went against the insurance companies, but rather than accepting this, they embarked on the appeals process. Last week the UK’s Supreme Court (the final arbiter) gave its judgement. The court found for the businesses, in most of the scenarios that were presented to them.
It seems obvious to me that people took out these policies precisely to cover their losses caused by something like a pandemic, so for the insurance companies to welch on them was wrong. And the court agrees, although the delay means that many small businesses have already gone to the wall. And I couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow when commentators raised the possibility that the insurance companies might always try not to observe the ruling… which will just lead to many individual claims, all being no-brainers after this ruling, but each claim adding further delay.
Some commentators have estimated that this judgement could cost the insurance companies as much as £2 billion. That’d be nice, but of course, it won’t cost them a penny. They’ll just put everybody’s premiums up next year so they continue to rake in even more profits.