Covid-19 class actions: merchants against insurers
The collectives of traders chain victories before the commercial courts to obtain compensation for operating losses from their insurance. For good reason, since the first lockdown in March 2020, many institutions for which insurers are limping in touch. Thus, despite contracts providing financial protections in the event of administrative closure, many insurance companies refuse to compensate them. The pandemic is not provided for in the contract; the guarantee is not valid if another establishment is closed for the same reason; or a simple refusal to cover operating losses without giving reasons (1). Faced with this situation, many collectives are formed to carry out legal actions, often fruitful…
Restaurants, hotels, discos… Businesses most affected by administrative closures
To find out the quantity of insurance contracts that exclude the operating loss guarantee, the Prudential Control and Resolution Authority has analyzed a representative sample of contracts. At the end, it found that 93% of the insured were ultimately not covered. (2)
This is particularly the case of the Resto Ensemble collective,which brings together more than 250 companies throughout the country. Including forty in Nouvelle-Aquitaine and 4 in Bordeaux. Since its launch in March 2020, the association has multiplied its victories against insurance to be compensated for operating losses, and in particular against Axa (3). A necessary responsiveness according to the collective, since according to an April 2020 survey, 30% of CHRD establishments were at risk of bankruptcy.
This victory allows us to see the future more serenely. Resto Ensemble has given us the tools to fight and accompanies us throughout this crisis.
Valérie and Pascal Yenk – “Le Parvis” – Member of the Resto Ensemble collective
Since June 2020, the Resto Ensemble collective has been calling on the firm of Eric Dupond-Moretti & Antoine Vey. Which intervenes pro bono to identify unfair terms or allowing a legal action. (4)
Other collectives for the CHR have also formed. We find for example “Non-essentials against Axa” in the Pays de la Loire. According to Éric Claveau, the instigator of the movement, 15,000 Axa contracts are concerned throughout France.
The Umih, the main trade union in the hotel and restaurant industry, is also taking a stand on the subject. Its online platform provides legal support, ranging from case-building to legal action.
Collective actions for all companies in a situation of administrative closure due to Covid-19
In addition to making legal actions more efficient, class actions also make it possible to pool the costs of the proceedings. On the subject of compensation for operating losses, CHRD is not the only one to step up to the plate.
Indeed, the Umih has identified sixinsurance policies of the companies Axa, Crédit Mutuel-CIC, BPCE, Allianz-AGF, Generali and MAAF likely to cover the Covid-19 operating loss. As such, it is a lot of companies in a situation of administrative closure due to Covid-19 that can join collective actions.
The most important at the moment is the one conducted by platform V for Verdict (1). It specializes in class actions. Other platforms of this type exist and can answer the call. This is particularly the case with MySmartCab (5).
Covid-19 operating losses: insurance companies cry injustice in the face of class actions and court decisions
However, if on the one hand everyone can understand the grievances of companies forced to close the administrative, it is nonetheless a situation so surprising that the health crisis was clearly not foreseen for insurers. In March 2021 alone, the tightening of restrictions led to the closure of around 90,000 businesses.
According to the French Insurance Federation, insurers are the ones who contribute the most to the national effort. By March 2021, they would have already released €2.6 billion for individuals and businesses. €400 million of participation in the solidarity fund for MSMEs; 400 others for “collective” measures applied by FFA member insurers (work stoppages, cancellation of rents,…); and €1,800 million in individual measures such as the assumption of a share of the operating losses of professionals on a joint and several basis. This last point also includes the reimbursement of part of the car insurance premiums, or the free extension of medical civil liability protection for on-call nursing staff. (6)
However, this effort seems to be put into perspective given the positive results of recent months for insurers, on most of their activities. Indeed, for life insurance, the FFA announces that “the net collection in units of account has reached, with nearly +11 billion euros over the 1st quarter, a level not seen for 14 years”. The same applies to retirement savings plans, which show “particularly sustained growth compared to April 2020: +335% for new insured persons and +382% for contributions. At the end of April, the PER had 1.6 million insured persons and the outstanding amounts to nearly 19 billion euros.” (7)
In this context, it seems that insurance can survive the compensation of its professional clients.