WHERE DO I STAND?
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