UK regulator, insurers, brace for Supreme Court battle over COVID-19 case

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The logo of the new Financial Conduct Authority in the Canary Wharf business district of London

By Kirstin Ridley and Carolyn Cohn

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s markets regulator said on Wednesday it had failed to strike a deal with major insurers over prompt payouts to small businesses battered by the coronavirus pandemic, dashing 11th-hour hopes that a Supreme Court appeal could be avoided.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) had set a late Wednesday deadline for talks with insurers, such as QBE (AX:) and RSA (L:), to ensure eligible business interruption (BI) claims would be paid speedily, after the High Court ruled that thousands had been wrongly rejected.

The regulator said it had hoped to reach an agreement with the insurers on the interpretation of some important elements of the judgment affecting “which businesses get paid and how much”, but conceded that the case was complex.

“We will continue discussions with insurers and action groups, to find a solution which resolves the outstanding issues as soon as possible to enable pay-outs on eligible claims,” it said in a statement.

Businesses, from cafes and wedding planners to events companies and nightclubs, have said they face ruin after attempts to claim for business losses during the pandemic – which prompted a three-month national lockdown in March and a series of stringent restrictions since – were rejected by insurers.

Insurers disputed that many policies provided cover for the pandemic, saying this would otherwise be catastrophic for the industry.

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