Liege Court of Appeal (3rd Chamber), 16 December 2020
Belgium is unique in that it anticipated the requirements of the Insurance Distribution Directive even before it came into force, placing significant duties on intermediaries in the interest of consumer protection. These duties are not without limit, especially when their clients try to hold them responsible for loss or damage arising from their own negligence.
In 2017, a broker’s client purchased a top of-the-range vehicle and took out a motor policy to insure it, in particular against theft.
A year later, the vehicle was stolen from the client’s garage. The insurer declined the claim on the grounds that theft cover was subject to the policyholder producing written proof of the conformity of the vehicle’s alarm systems and evidence of a subscription to a central monitoring station being in force at the date of loss. However, the client did not comply with the above requirements and was therefore unable to provide the insurer with the documents, which turned down his claim. He then held the intermediary responsible, arguing that although he had paid his insurance premium, the broker had never sent him the policy documents, which was why he was unaware of the requirement to install an anti-theft system in the vehicle.
After a favourable First Instance ruling, the client’s claim was dismissed by the Court of Appeal. The judges found that the client had failed to prove that the broker had not provided him with the policy documents and that the disputed information was apparent from a simple reading of the policy.
This judgment is interesting in that it shows that an intermediary’s duty to provide information is not without its limits, insofar as it particularly relates to facts that a client is supposedly unaware of and not to information that the client has available and that is provided in policy documents.
However, there is a nuance in this ruling, insofar as it also provides intermediaries with a reminder of the importance of making sure they keep a fully documented record of all the information they provide to their clients