FSCL Case Study

Two friends were travelling overseas in a small hatchback car when they parked outside a service station to use the bathroom. 

They left all their luggage in the back of the car, two daypacks in the back seat, and one man left his wallet and phone in the front seat of the car. He was certain that he locked the car with a remote locking device on the key fob.

Only a few minutes later, the pair returned to discover their daypacks and the man’s phone and wallet had been stolen. They asked the service station staff, but nobody had seen anything and the staff said the CCTV cameras were not working. 

The service station manager telephoned the local police station for the men but the police said they had to report the theft in person. They  could not follow the directions to the nearest police station, so continued with their journey and reported the theft the same day at the next police station they were able to find.

They lodged a claim with their travel insurer for the stolen items, worth $8000. When the insurer declined their claim, they referred their complaint to FSCL.

Dispute

The insurer declined the claim saying that money was only covered by the policy if it was stolen from the man’s person, from a locked safe, or from a room where he was present. With respect to the items stolen from the car, the insurer said the loss would only be covered if the items had been stored in a locked compartment and forced entry was gained or, if no locked compartment was available, the items were unable to be seen from outside the locked vehicle.

The pair said the insurer’s decision was unfair. They agreed it was not safe to leave luggage in a car for any extended period but said they had been away from the car for less than five minutes. 

They also said they had placed most of their items in the luggage compartment, but the daypacks would not fit, and they had no option but to leave their daypacks on the back seat. The man was certain he had locked the car and suggested that the thieves may have used a transmitter and amplifier to locate the signal from the key fob, amplify that signal, and unlock the car. They submitted that the thieves effectively gained access by force.

Review

FSCL said whenever it reviewed a complaint about a declined insurance claim, the starting point was the policy. In this case, the insurer accepted that the insuring clause was met and that there was cover for
the accidental loss of personal luggage. However, before accepting the claim, the insurer was entitled to consider whether any exclusion
clauses apply.

Under the policy, the insurer did not agree to provide cover for items stolen from a car, unless those items were stored in a locked luggage compartment and forced entry was gained. However, the policy went on to say that if there was no locked luggage compartment there will be cover if the items were unable to be seen from outside the vehicle. Perhaps if the items had been placed under the seats of the car, stored in the glove box, or if the car had tinted windows so the bags on the back seat could not be seen, there might have been cover.

We explained to the pair that, from the circumstances as they described them, their bags, phones and wallet were able to be seen from outside the car, allowing Allianz to decline the claim.

Although the men had submitted that a transmitter and amplifier were used to gain access to the car, and this might be possible, it was equally likely that they simply forgot to lock the car. However, given FSCL’s finding that the stolen items were able to be seen from outside the car, it was not necessary to decide how the thieves broke into the car.

FSCL suggested the pair discontinue their complaint.



September 2020

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