WHERE DO I STAND?

Living France - - The Essentials -

Q I bought a house in France, with in­sur­ance, 10 years ago. It was not made clear to me at any time that to can­cel this in­sur­ance, I should give writ­ten no­tice 20 days be­fore the re­newal date, and that this had to be sent by reg­is­tered post. Be­fore the con­tract was due for re­newal I con­tacted the in­sur­ance com­pany to let them know I would not be re­new­ing my con­tract. The French in­sur­ance com­pany failed to in­form me that if I wanted to can­cel the in­sur­ance then I needed to send a let­ter via reg­is­tered post. In my orig­i­nal con­tract it does say that if the con­tract is can­celled, they will re­im­burse what is not used, but they have since said that this is only if I sold the house. I have now sent a reg­is­tered let­ter can­celling the pol­icy but I ex­pect they will still want the full amount. They did send me a reg­is­tered let­ter a few weeks ago but I have not col­lected this. What I want to know is, what hap­pens if I don’t pay? VIKI HIRST

AIt is com­monly the case with in­sur­ers in France that any ter­mi­na­tion of the con­tract should be served by reg­is­tered let­ter. In­deed, it is pru­dent in France to en­sure that any con­trac­tual doc­u­men­ta­tion where ac­tual de­liv­ery is re­quired should be sent by reg­is­tered post. In France that is by Let­tre Recom­mandée Avec Avis de Ré­cep­tion (or ‘LRAR’ for short); the near­est equiv­a­lent in the UK would be ‘In­ter­na­tional Signed For’.

It may per­haps be good prac­tice to point out in clear lan­guage any spe­cific re­stric­tions such as an obli­ga­tion to serve no­tice in a par­tic­u­lar way. It is prob­a­bly the case that the orig­i­nal con­tract was not as clear and easy to read as one may ex­pect from a mod­ern English in­sur­ance pol­icy. In­deed, it is pos­si­ble that the par­tic­u­lar in­surer in ques­tion would have up­dated their stan­dard terms and con­di­tions to im­prove such is­sues. Re­gret­fully, how­ever, it is un­likely to be worth­while chal­leng­ing the in­surer on whether this should have been high­lighted in any bet­ter way: ir­re­spec­tive of whether the re­newal clause ap­pears in the con­tract, the sub­scriber is deemed to have ac­knowl­edged this.

As to the ques­tion of par­tial re­im­burse­ment of any un­ex­pired term, this would only arise on a sale – if a no­tice to ter­mi­nate is validly served, then it would have to ex­pire on the last day of the term, and as such there would not be any un­used pre­mium to be re­funded.

Just as is the case with any other in­voice, non-pay­ment could re­sult in an ac­tion be­ing brought, even if the debtor is in an­other ju­ris­dic­tion. MATTHEW CAMERON

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