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Guest opinion: Experts should act on Euro cover laws

There are eight days to go. Eight days before the selling of general insurance through unauthorised intermediaries becomes illegal.

The new Insurance Mediation regulations come into effect on January 14 and will change the way that insurance is sold.

To comply, insurance sellers will have either to be licensed or become an authorised agent of a licensee. Either way, it will involve significant compliance costs and extensive staff training. Not something to be undertaken lightly, especially if your sales volumes are low.

But with those eight days to go I am simply astonished that not one of the motoring organisations has found a way of selling European vehicle breakdown insurance via a BVRLA member to that members’ customers. And I was astounded when one of our members recently showed me a letter from one of the motoring organisations peremptorily terminating his contract for European cover after many years and asking – no, demanding – the return of any unused documentation forthwith.

As an illustration of how not to treat customers it was an illumination. And he was not alone. Several other instances turned up over the next few days with other members receiving similar letters.

OK, it is true that the Insurance Mediation regulations are tough but not so tough that the BVRLA cannot, as a trade association and not a commercial enterprise, find a way through to produce cover which until a full-scale package can be put in place, at least gives our members’ vehicles breakdown and emergency cover and even vehicle repatriation while travelling in mainland Europe. We launched that in December last year and so far even that has no apparent competition.

So, if we can do it why cannot others? Is it a lack of commercial entrepreneurship or simply an admission of defeat in the face of difficult regulations? I don’t know the answers to these questions but given how commercially-minded these organisations are now that they are run as strictly commercial enterprises and not as member organisations, there is no reason why they should not offer traditional European vehicle breakdown cover including baggage cover, through intermediaries now.

Unless, of course, they’re planning to do so and simply have not yet launched their services. But I don’t think so. In our conversations we have not yet come across such an intention and it seems to me they’re missing a trick here. Maybe it’s because they’re used to offering the all-singing, all-dancing variety of insurance that covers the driver and passengers as well as the vehicle. If they want to do that, it is quite simple to do outside the scope of the regulations thus avoiding the cost and compliance for our industry to be regulated.

But with no resellers of European breakdown cover on the scene, life could become more difficult for the customer.

There is no reason why it should have to be so. Yes, drivers can still buy direct from one of the motoring organisations but this is a deterioration of service not an enhancement.

So in reality, it’s about time that the motoring organisations with all their experts, got themselves up to speed and offered the short term rental sector and the fleet industry some meaningful cover for their drivers, passengers and vehicles while travelling in Europe.

If they can’t, or don’t seem to want to, can I suggest that you tell them what you think.

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