In December 2016 the insured purchased two motorbikes from a dealer who arranged insurance through a broker. He paid the annual insurance premiums for both bikes in one lump sum. In March 2017 both bikes were stolen from a secure garage. When the insured submitted the claim, his insurer advised him the policies had lapsed the previous December because he had not paid the premiums. He was shocked, the year had slipped past so quickly and he had simply forgotten to renew the policies.
He complained to us, and we referred the complaint to the insurer and the broker, both FSCL participants. To simplify matters, the insurer agreed to accept responsibility for the complaint.
The insurer went back to the broker for information about the renewal process, and discovered the broker had sent one email to an incorrect email address. The insured had given the broker his correct email address, telephone number and physical address. The insurer did not accept it had any legal liability, saying it was his responsibility to renew his insurance, but agreed the broker’s service could have been better. The insurer offered to compensate the insured for half his loss.
The insured's view
The client did not accept the insurer’s offer. He said the broker was entirely liable for his loss because if he had received the renewal reminder he would have renewed the policies and been insured when the bikes were stolen. He referred his complaint to us.
While the client carried some responsibility for the loss, because he failed to renew his insurance policy, we considered the broker carried a greater degree of responsibility for the loss. The broker was the professional in the relationship and had sent one renewal reminder email to an incorrect email address. The client had given the broker his correct email address, a contact telephone number and physical address but the broker had made no effort to contact him by another method.
It seemed to us fundamentally unfair that the broker could consider one email to the incorrect email address adequate service at renewal time. During our investigation, we asked other brokers for their view and they agreed, advising they would have tried to contact the client using his other contact details.
The insurer also submitted that after three months the client should have realised his policy had lapsed. The insurer asked at what point would its liability for loss end? After six months, a year or would an insurer be indefinitely liable?
We were unable to give the insurer a definite answer to this question, as each case is decided on its merits. However, we said we would take into consideration the length of time since the policy lapsed and the frequency of premium payments. If the premiums were paid monthly, we would ordinarily expect a person to notice payments had ceased after a couple of months, but if payments are annual we would allow a longer period for a person to notice payments had ceased.
We recommended, and the insured accepted, that the insurer assess the claim and split the loss on a 25/75 basis in the client’s favour, then deduct the premiums he would have paid if he had renewed his insurance and the excesses for both bikes.
A customer uses a broker’s service for help when first arranging cover, but also because the broker will provide on-going service and advice at renewal time. A broker is being paid to service a client, and can be expected to provide that service with reasonable care and skill.
Professional IQ College offers workshops, online courses, webinars and qualifications.
For upcoming events:
Where members can access industry Resources & Media Content