Action group holds insurers to account for UK business interruption policies

Eloise Hanson Eloise Hanson Uploaded 29 April 2020

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UK: Hospitality Insurance Group Action (HIGA) launches today and is open to businesses which have been forced to close within the industry if their insurance company is silent or refusing to honour policies.

Any claims by HIGA against the insurance industry is likely to run into tens of millions of pounds.

There is no cost to any UK hospitality business to register with HIGA to have their existing business interruption insurance policy reviewed.

Litigation law firm Mishcon de Reya LLP (Mishcon) has agreed to advise HIGA on bringing collective action against a range of insurers.

Mishcon has secured external funding to cover the policy review exercise and is working with Philip Edey QC, of Twenty Essex Chambers.

Sonia Campbell, partner and head of the insurance disputes team at Mishcon, said: "Hospitality sector businesses, large and small, have been particularly hard hit by the government-enforced closure during this pandemic and desperately need to mitigate their losses. In times of crisis they expect their insurance to respond. Yet I am hearing time and time again that insurers are either stone-walling, unfairly limiting or simply point-blank refusing to pay out under business interruption policies. This strikes us as something that is open to challenge. I look forward to assisting all members of HIGA in exploring the possibility of a group claim. There may well be some light at the end of this industry’s very dark tunnel." 

HIGA registrants and business owners have shared their experiences. Trevor Ayling, owner of five Renoufs cheese and wine bars in Dorset and Hampshire, said: “We’re a family-run, local independent group of award winning restaurants and feel a huge sense of duty to our community and loyal customers; we want to be able to reopen for them as much as for our staff and family, as soon as restrictions ease. In light of the difficult circumstances, we decided to claim on our insurance policy and have tried every way to get our insurer to respond – to no avail. A pay-out on our policy would go some way to making reopening a reality, helping to secure Renoufs’ future.”

“We are aware others are similarly affected and, like us, don’t have the money to fight when claims are ignored or denied, as legal support can run into hundreds of thousands. So we jumped at being an early participant in what’s become HIGA - it meant we got our policy wording reviewed for free and the chance of fighting to recover at least a proportion of our losses. I will be urging others in the hospitality industry to look at HIGA – we need to stand united to be counted.”

Dan Fox, managing director of Craft Locals (owner of three North London pubs) said: “If insurers don’t come through, this will have a devastating impact on not only the business and its continued survival, but the livelihood of the fantastic team members that we employ, and the local communities of which we form such an integral part.”

 “Our pubs not only offer a fantastic range of food and drinks but are hubs of the local community. We host everything from local book clubs, neighbourhood watch meetings, baby first aid classes to unsigned local music acts.  We will do everything in our power to renew these activities and right now we’re hoping HIGA can help us get our insurers to do the right thing.”

Business owners can register their details on the HIGA website here so that a free-of-charge preliminary assessment can be made of their insurance policy, and whether COVID-19 lockdown-related losses are covered within their business interruption clauses.

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