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My client had a vehicle he imported transported to his premises by a transport company.

The vehicle arrived damaged (scratch on bodywork) and he has made a claim against the transport company (The Company) who have notified their insurer. 

The company have a $500 excess applying to their insurance Policy that they are telling my client he is liable for. He is disputing this stating he was not told about the excess when he arranged the transport.

The company have responded by advising it is noted on their website. He advises he did not see this and did not agree to accepting any excess, nor did he sign anything nor was he told verbally of this when arranging the transport.

I have looked on the company website and it states:

a: "...You get specialist insurance cover for your imported vehicles at no cost to you..."; AND

b: "..N.B: $500.00 policy excess applies to all claims to be paid by the importer.."

My question is - can the company impose their excess onto their clients, also their website states that the insurance is "at no cost" to the client, which directly conflicts that he must pay the excess, which is a cost relating to the insurance cover.

Pauline Davies replies

My first question is, did your client hold marine cargo insurance for the import/road transport? If so, he may be better to claim under that policy and leave the cargo insurer to deal with recovery.

Putting that issue to one side though, the Company is liable to your client under Part 5, Subpart 1 of the Contract and Commercial Law Act 2017 (the successor to the Carriage of Goods Act 1979) with the liability limited to $2000 unless different arrangements were entered into that comply with the Act, and since your client was not aware of the "excess" it seems unlikely that this was the case. 

A statement on a website is not, of itself, compliant. What the Company's insurance arrangements are, is irrelevant and it is certainly not permitted under the Act to take this sort of deduction. Your client should therefore be entitled to the cost of repairing the scratch to a maximum of $2000.

June 2022

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