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FSCA working to clarify companies’ rights in pandemic insurance claims

Test case in the pipeline.
The regulator says it’s too early to indicate when the case will be heard or when legal certainty might be achieved. Image: Moneyweb

South Africa’s financial watchdog is consulting with lawyers and the insurance industry on a potential test case to clarify whether insurers should pay rejected claims from firms hit by the impact of the coronavirus, it told Reuters on Thursday.

Several lawsuits have been filed by individual firms, mostly in tourism and hospitality, after they were told by insurers that their policies did not cover coronavirus lockdowns.

Read: TBCSA wants Mboweni to intervene on Covid-19 insurance claims

A test case would aim to provide legal certainty in the matter, said Makgompi Raphasha, head of insurers and retirement fund administrators at the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA).

“It is too early for the FSCA to say when the case will be heard or when legal certainty might be achieved,” he said in an emailed response to questions, adding consultations with various stakeholders needed to conclude first.

UK example

Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has already taken a group of insurers to court as part of its own test case – which could affect 370 000 policyholders – and there have been questions as to whether the FSCA will take a similar approach.

Cases brought by individual firms turn on specific policy wordings, and are sometimes seen as applying to only one particular insurer or even one particular claimant.

A South African court already found in favour of claimant Cafe Chameleon in a case against the country’s fourth-largest non-life insurer Guardrisk. But the insurer is appealing and others say the judgment is not applicable to their policies.

Read:

Two other big South African insurers, Old Mutual and Santam, have told Reuters previously they would be open to participating in a test case if the FSCA was to launch one.

They, as well as others in the sector, have offered either interim relief payments or settlements for clients, many on the brink of failure, amid pressure from the FSCA and reputational damage over their stance.

Read: SA insurers’ offer in Covid claims fight too little too late for some

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