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This is a situation that I find myself in currently, albeit much abbreviated:

The insurance for our car was due to be renewed. Having not heard from the company, we logged into the on-line portal and saw "No action required, your policy will be renewed on XX/XX/XXXX". Assuming the company's own portal would be correct, we let it roll over (as we did the year before, without issue).

Then, we got pulled over by the police for no insurance, so we re-checked the portal and it stated the same, No action required. We phoned up customer services and they (unhelpfully) said, "We sent you an e-mail [Which we never received] and we won't issue a Letter of Indemnity because we sent that [single] e-mail" We checked our inbox, we got all the monthly news updates, but no e-mail about renewal.

So, now we're stuck with a producer that we cannot produce because their portal claimed we had to do nothing.

My question is this: If an insurance company are not planning on renewing your policy because they "require more information", yet their own portal claims the opposite, how liable are they?

Additional information:

All other renewals we had with them, we got no correspondence until a week after the renewal date (when we received the digital and hard-copy certificate). We assumed it would be the same this year also.

No payments have been missed, the last one being taken on the first of the month (3 days before the renewal date). They claim this is for the final month of the period covered by the old policy.

They are refusing the Letter of Indemnity as they deem a single e-mail - without any attempted follow up by phone or mail - is sufficient to state intent (contrary to the portal) of not renewing. Also note that we proved this e-mail was never received by microsoft customer servers who kindly restored all deleted messages to ensure it wasn't a client error).

UK law provides that drivers must be insured (see selected answer).

Please let me know if any other information is required.

  • This is very much after the fact, but could you share whether the payment they received 3 days prior to the renewal date was actually the payment for the final month? In all of my dealings with insurance companies, the payments I make are always to pay for the next period of time (whether monthly, bi-annually, or annually). – Michael Richardson Sep 21 '17 at 19:37
  • @MichaelRichardson - Certainly. We had paid in advance. Our first payment was taken on the day the policy was issued so we were sure that we were not paying in arrears of the policy. But this is definitely an important fact to have checked. – Pudd Sep 22 '17 at 12:03
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Although your question didn't ask about the criminal side of this, it's important to consider the offence of driving without insurance in the UK. Section 143 Road Traffic Act 1998 provides that—

(1) Subject to the provisions of this Part of this Act—

(a) a person must not use a motor vehicle on a road or other public place unless there is in force in relation to the use of the vehicle by that person such a policy of insurance or such a security in respect of third party risks as complies with the requirements of this Part of this Act ...

(2) If a person acts in contravention of subsection (1) above he is guilty of an offence.

(3) A person charged with using a motor vehicle in contravention of this section shall not be convicted if he proves—

...

(c) that he neither knew nor had reason to believe that there was not in force in relation to the vehicle such a policy of insurance or security as is mentioned in subsection (1) above.

If it's not too late, it may be worth challenging the matter in court on the basis of a s143(1)(c) defence (i.e. you didn't have reason to believe that your policy was not in force). You should speak to a solicitor immediately if you want to consider this.

As mentioned in the previous answer, you may have a claim against the insurer if you can provide that you were misled into believing that your policy had been renewed automatically. You should read the terms and conditions carefully to discover whether they were entitled to communicate on matters of renewal solely by email. Again, you should speak to a solicitor to establish whether you have a realistic prospect of success.

(in case you're curious, the 'security' mentioned in s143 refers to a sum of £500,000 which, if deposited with the Courts Funds Office, exempts an individual or corporation from the insurance requirement)

  • 3
    I have chosen this answer as it is one one that our solicitor immediately pointed out. We were lead to believe we were insured, and therefore "proportionate" measures were not taken by the insurer to correct their database error (we proved this by Microsoft confirming the message received was a newsletter, not a renewal notice). Once we pointed this out to the insurers, they immediately issued indemnity and compensation. Case resolved happily. – Pudd Jul 10 '15 at 13:12
  • Glad to hear it! – Flup Jul 10 '15 at 13:18
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    Also potentially relevant, according to our solicitor is that should the insurer have failed to reverse their decision, we would have to defend the criminal proceeding (Driving without insurance), but would be most likely be able to seek compensation and dismissal by taking the insurer on with civil negligence; a case that they were unlikely to win due to the inconsistent messages, even if we had received the e-mail. - Note, I am not a lawyer and this was not contested in court, so it's always worth checking documents (daily around renewal time if needed, and don't take the risk!). – Pudd Jul 10 '15 at 13:24
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I am not a lawyer, I am not your lawyer

Jurisdiction specific legislation regarding consumer protection, misrepresentation and insurance is all going to be applicable here and I don't know it so I can't address it. I also assume from you question that this insurance is required by law and that you commit an offence if you don't hold it. That said, here is some general common law background.

First you need to determine if you are insured or not.

A general insurance policy (like car insurance) is an enduring contract i.e. you have the one contract from when you sign up to when you leave (other types e.g. professional indemnity are a new contract every year). Within the terms of the policy will be details of how the contract is terminated - read them. Since the contract was drafted by the insurance company I would bet good money that they have placed the onus for renewal firmly on your shoulders.

I would also be willing to bet that even if they have not insisted on your compliance in the past, there is a term in the contract that a specific waiver of a term on their part does not create a precedent.

It is here that you need to do some research about if by their actions and the impact of the local law you are, in fact, insured even if they say you aren't

Second, did you commit an offence

What is the law here? Is having a "reasonable belief" that you are insured a defence?

Third, what is their liability

So, if you are not insured and did commit an offence then it is arguable that the insurance company, by their negligence, caused you to unknowingly commit that offence.

In order to establish negligence as a Cause of Action under the law of torts, a plaintiff must prove that the defendant:

  1. had a duty to the plaintiff,
  2. breached that duty by failing to conform to the required standard of conduct (generally the standard of a reasonable person),
  3. the negligent conduct was the cause of the harm to the plaintiff, and
  4. the plaintiff was, in fact, harmed or damaged

If I were running their defence I would:

  1. Concede that a duty was owed
  2. Argue that it was fulfilled by putting the relevant information in the contract and the indemnity I sent you lest year with its prominent expiry date - you would have to show that I needed to do more (and you would certainly point to the fact that my website said all was A-OK)
  3. Argue that I did not cause you to drive without valid insurance - you, knowing you did not have an indemnity, nevertheless wantonly drove in violation of the law. I reckon I've got a shot here.
  4. You would have had to have suffered real loss. A fine may not be recoverable - there are good public policy reasons why you shouldn't be reimbursed for government sanctions.

Recommendation

Don't fight a legal battle over this. Point out to the insurance company that you have been a loyal customer and if they do right by you then you will continue to be loyal and tell all your friends and relations on Facebook and Twitter how great you are. If they do wrong by you then ...

  • "Put the onus of renewal on your shoulders" - if I ran the insurance company and wanted to make profit, I'd make it as hard as possible to cancel the insurance. – gnasher729 Oct 14 '15 at 19:05

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