It is hard to think of a single person who has not been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly since the Government’s lockdown was introduced in March.
Five months later and the country is finally starting to recover with people being allowed to stay at their favourite hotels, eat at their local restaurants and have a socially distanced drink in their neighbourhood pub.
Whilst it is safe to say that people are beginning to experience some degree of normality, the same cannot be said for the hospitality industry which has been decimated by the enforced restrictions.
Although many hospitality businesses have started to re-open, many still face an uncertain future having suffered significant losses throughout the lockdown period.
It is a situation made even worse as many businesses have been told by their insurers that they are not covered for business interruption losses under their insurance policies.
Businesses hoped that, in the Covid-19 enforced closure situation, insurers would have been quick to pay out money for losses - which for many is the difference between staying afloat and going under.
Unfortunately, the likes of Aviva Insurance Limited and QBE (UK) Ltd continue to abstain from paying out, insisting their policies do not cover this type of crisis but we do not believe that is correct.
As a result, the Hospitality Insurance Group Action (HIGA), has been established. It is a policyholder group for businesses insured by Aviva Insurance Limited and QBE (UK) Ltd with specific policies as listed on the HIGA website. HIGA is free to join and is working on behalf of hospitality businesses across the UK which are insured by these two insurers to hold them to account.
HIGA has been underwritten by one of the world’s leading litigation insurance funders and so our members have not had to pay out a penny.
In fact, HIGA is at the heart of the fight for the hospitality industry. We’re one of just two policyholder groups that was permitted by the Court to make submissions in the FCA Insurance test case which looked at the Business Interruption policies of eight insurers including QBE (UK) Ltd and RSA (which has a policy written in materially the same form as the one we are pursuing for Aviva policyholders).
As a hospitality business you would be forgiven for thinking that it is too late to take action against your insurers who have informed you there is no cover under your policy, but that may not be the case.
With around 370,000 businesses affected, it is clear that there are many more hospitality businesses that may have a valid claim and many still do not realise it. Over the last few months, I’ve been working with numerous businesses and it is abundantly clear that many have been told by their insurer that they do not have cover and have accepted the rejection of their claims at face value.
The Court is set to rule on whether certain wordings afford cover in principle. We hope to have the Court's judgment in mid-September, so there is still time to join HIGA.
We are offering a free Advice Clinic on Thursday 20th August at 10.30am for hotels, restaurants, cafés, bars, and other businesses within the hospitality sector who are insured by Aviva and QBE.
I will be leading the Advice Clinic and will be explaining clearly and simply how hospitality businesses who wish to make a claim for Covid-19 related business interruption losses can join HIGA.
You can sign up for the Advice Clinic, which will take place on the Zoom platform (accessible via PC/laptop or mobile phone via the app), by emailing HIGA@mishcon.com with your details and any questions you may have about this evolving issue.
It is a case of strength in numbers when taking on the insurance industry, and it is a fight we hope to win. To attend the Advice Clinic, and find out more information about HIGA, all you need to do is register by emailing us.
Sonia Campbell is head of the Insurance Disputes group and Partner at Mishcon de Reya leading the legal action against insurers on behalf of Hospitality Insurance Group Action (HIGA).
Later this week she is leading a free Advice Clinic for hospitality businesses that have had their claims for business interruption insurance rejected or have not yet made a claim.
The clinic is scheduled for Thursday, August 20 at 10.30am. To register, please email HIGA@mishcon.com with your name, the name of your business and your contact number.