The Supreme Court has delivered its judgment in the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA)’s business interruption insurance test case, with the court’s ruling in the favour of small firms potentially forcing insurers to pay out £1.2bn in CBI claims.
Following the judgement, thousands of policyholders will now have their claims for coronavirus-related business interruption losses paid out.
The court’s decision brings to a close the legal arguments imposed by 14 types of policies issued by six insurers, and a substantial number of similar policies in the wider markets.
The FCA first brought the case against the courts in a bid to “urgently clarify key issues of contractual uncertainty for as many policyholders and insurers as possible”, initially selecting a representative sample of 21 policy types issued by eight insurance groups.
Sheldon Mills, executive director for Consumers and Competition at the FCA, said: “Coronavirus is causing substantial loss and distress to businesses and many are under immense financial strain to stay afloat. This test case involved complex legal issues.
“Our aim throughout this test case has been to get clarity for as wide a range of parties as possible, as quickly as possible, and today’s judgment decisively removes many of the roadblocks to claims by policyholders.”
He added: “We will be working with insurers to ensure that they now move quickly to pay claims that the judgment says should be paid, making interim payments wherever possible.
“Insurers should also communicate directly and quickly with policyholders who have made claims affected by the judgment to explain next steps.”
Huw Evans, ABI director general, told Accountancy Today: “Insurers have supported this fast-track legal process every step of the way and we welcome the clarity that the judgment will bring to a number of complex issues. Today’s judgment represents the final step in the appeal process.
“The insurance industry expects to pay out over £1.8bn in Covid-19 related claims across a range of products, including business interruption policies. Customers who have made claims that are affected by the test case will be contacted by their insurer to discuss what the judgment means for their claim.”
He added: “All valid claims will be settled as soon as possible and in many cases the process of settling claims has begun. Some payments have already been made where valid business interruption claims have not been impacted by the test case ruling.
“We recognise this has been a particularly difficult time for many small businesses and naturally regret the Covid-19 restrictions have led to disputes with some customers. We will continue to work together as an industry to ensure customers have the clarity they need when it comes to what they can expect from their business insurance policies.”