Regional Court Munich 1, 04.02.2020 – 33 O 3124/19, BVK vs. Check24
Since 1923, section 48b of the German Insurance Supervision Act (VAG) prohibited insurance intermediaries from sharing commissions with their customers. Germany is one of the few European Union Member States to impose such a ban, which has generated litigation that will have significant impact on the commercial practices of the profession.
In 2018, to celebrate its tenth anniversary, Check24, an insurance comparison site, made the following offer to its users: any person who took out a personal insurance policy with an insurer listed on the comparison site between 20 September and 10 October 2018 and did not cancel it would receive credit to the value of up to a year’s premium, depending on the type of policy.
When it learned of this practice, the Federal German Insurance Brokers Association (BVK) initiated legal action against Check 24 seeking to ban this practice, wich it considered illegal. It based its action on the statute discussed above that prohibits intermediaries from sharing commissions with their customers. The comparison site refuted this contention, arguing that the credits were not distributed through its own broker – “Check24 Vergleichsportal für Kfz- Versicherungen GmbH” – as prohibited by German law, but by the parent company, Check24 GmbH.
The court agreed with the BVK and held that this practice constituted a clear violation of the legal ban on insurance intermediaries sharing commissions with their customers. Check 24 is now prohibited from conducting such campaigns or making similar offers to its customers.
This case is interesting because it was a broker association that took the initiative to bring legal action against Check24. However, this was not the first time these two parties had met in court: the association, which represents nearly 40,000 insurance agents, had previously obtained a decision ordering Check24 to inform its customers of the amount of commissions received by the broker before any insurance policy was signed.