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I had a ski trip planned from 14th March - 21st March. I arrived in the French ski resort at 15:00 on 14th March and by 23:00 the French government went into lock down and ordered all non-essential businesses to close immediately - including ski resorts.

Fearing being stuck in the resort, the next morning I changed my return flight from 21st March to 16th March and had to pay extra fees.

I tried to contact my insurance company but they did not answer. I was also in a rush as my accommodation has ordered me to leave, but I do not have proof of this in writing unfortunately.

I am now trying to claim these extra fees back from my insurance company but they are stating that because the FCO (UK Govt) did not announce non essential travel until the 17th March I have no claim.

The exact wording in my travel policy for curtailment is:

If you have to curtail your trip as a result of the Travel Advice Unit of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO), the World Health Organisation (WHO) or similar body recommending evacuation from the country or specific area in which you are travelling, providing the directive came into force after you purchased this insurance and after you have left your Country of Residence to commence the trip (whichever is the later).

And the reply from my insurance company was:

Unfortunately, from the information you provided, it would appear as shown above, the reason you abandoned your trip is not included in the specified incidents for which cover is provided under the policy. You paid the fee to amend your flight on the 15th of March, however, the FCO advice to travel to/from France came into force on the 17th of March. We are therefore unable to consider your claim further.

This is really cheeky of them and they clearly don't want to pay out. I need some advice on the fact that I was already abroad at the time of this announcement - the host country has ordered everything to close and therefore my trip will be cut short.

What points can I argue that my policy is in fact valid and I am due a refund? Thanks

EDIT 20/04: Thanks for all of your responses. A mixture of these answers managed to help. My claim was denied 3 times, 2x for curtailment and 1x for piste closure. In the end this was just ridiculous and I wasn't going to be bullied by an insurance company. I complained to the underwriters of the insurance policy but they didn't reply so I publicly complained and rated the insurance company that I brought the policy with. I won't name the website I complained on but they are a very popular public consumer facing review website. My claim was then honored only 8 hours later stating that it was incorrectly denied, funny eh?

FYI - It was a mixture of the actual reasonable grounds for curtailment, the FCA guidance that they had to be flexible, and the public facing 1* review for how I had been treated which honored my claim.

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    It looks like you need to prove that the French government ordered the lockdown. – Michael Hampton Apr 11 '20 at 15:53
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    That's easy enough - however it does not mention about "evacuation" of foreign citizens. However this article has stated that local police had taken the French government’s message into their own hands and were going round hotels and restaurants telling marooned Britons to go home immediately - surely I have a leg to stand on? – rup Apr 11 '20 at 16:28
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    Thanks, coming back and posting the results is very valuable. Future users with a same or like problem may need to use the same method and seeing it worked for you will help. (Maybe even just mentioning such a review may help in later cases.) – Willeke Apr 20 '20 at 9:55
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The wording states

... or similar body recommending evacuation from the country

So although the FCO might not have issued advice until later, the fact that the French government ordered all resorts closed should be sufficient.

You need to find this advice from French government sources online, write back to your insurance company and be polite but firm and point this out to them. Keep your letter short and to the point and state that you had no choice, the country was being locked down and all non-residents were ordered to leave.
Therefore, according to the T&Cs of your policy you expect the claim to be honoured and paid in full ASAP.

Also point them to this statement from the Financial Conduct Authority, and this article

State that you are disappointed with their behaviour and are considering complaining to the insurance ombudsman. And will pursue the claim further if they do not pay.

If they still refuse, then your only option is to complain to the ombudsman and/or pursue them in the small claims court.

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    I cant see anything in the FCA statement which requires insurers to pay any claim that the OP may have in this case. – Moo Apr 12 '20 at 7:42
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    And that does not constitute a requirement - neither the FCA nor the ombudsman can bully an insurer to pay a claim. All they are doing in that statement is looking like the government is doing something, when in-fact they aren't doing anything at all. – Moo Apr 12 '20 at 7:57
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    @moo, True. But if a company refuses to pay in accordance guidance issued by an authority such as the FCA then 1) Judges and the ombudsman would look badly upon them 2) they are more likely to find tougher regulation in the future which could not be in their best interest. Sad to say that companies will often initially reject and then pay only when "reminded" of their obligations. Many people don't continue to claim, so they get away with it, which is why they continue to do it. – jason.kaisersmith Apr 12 '20 at 8:00
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    1. the FCA hasnt actually issued "guidance", that document does not constitute actual guidance and thus is worthless for ombudsmen and the courts to lean on in any case (Ive worked in insurance, developing quotation engines and I learned a lot during that time, and gained several insurance related qualifications to boot). This is why I said in my previous comment that this is the FCA doing nothing. 2. Insurers know that the regulation they operate under changes with the wind anyway, so they dont look that far ahead. Most are trying to stay afloat with their reinsurance agreements right now. – Moo Apr 12 '20 at 8:06
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    @moo. Sorry, then it is an expectation on firms behaviour towards clients with existing policies. I don't believe that this alters the steps the OP should take in order to push for his claim to be paid. – jason.kaisersmith Apr 12 '20 at 10:13
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AFAIK hotels are classified as essential establishments in France with regards to the epidemic, so they are allowed to remain open.

You should clarify with your ski resort whether they are in fact an hotel and whether they were ordered to close or decided to close. You might be entitled to a compensation in both cases, but citing the wrong claim reason ("recommended evacuation" instead of "accommodation unavailability") is going to complicate matters.

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Your policy will cover you for a range of different risks. Curtailment due to FCO advice will be just one of them. Don't expect the insurance company to do your job for you and find an alternative ground on which to claim. Read the policy in its entirety and see what you are covered for. For example, it if you had a winter sports travel insurance, it is likely that you are covered for ski piste closure and you may be able to claim under that.

The bottom line is that we can't give you proper advice based on a very narrow quote from your policy wording. You should pursue all the options described in this answer whilst also looking for other ways you may be covered.

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  • Thanks for the tip of piste closure, it is a clause as well so I will be using this – rup Apr 13 '20 at 22:06
  • Piste closure only covers not enough snow or too much snow. How ridiculous – rup Apr 15 '20 at 18:01
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The policy is a contract between insurer and insured. If what you quote from your policy is all the policy says about such things then that was all you paid for and your claim seems unlikely to succeed.

Your policy likely says that you must call the insurer before making different arrangements. You say you tried but they did not answer. In the circumstances it might be considered unfair to hold you to that. Many people would have been calling them.

Can you get in touch with the accommodation provider for a statement that you were asked to leave?

I think the first link in your comment is to the first decree, published on 17th March following Macron's statement on 16th, which is too late for you. For your timeline you need the PM's statement at 8pm 14th March that the country must close all non-essential locations, notably cafes, restaurants, cinemas, nightclubs and shops from midnight. The decree refers to that.

Expect long timeframes: in the present circumstances insurers and the Financial Ombudsman Service are experiencing above normal demand from the public and have shorter opening hours, fewer staff.

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I am afraid that although your move was understandable and probably the right one, and it may seem unfair to you, the insurance is probably totally right because you did not fulfill the conditions of the contract. In fact, you have probably broken the law.

The decree (fulltext in French) says nothing about leaving the country. It says that you are not to leave the house, except for work, for making groceries, or for health concerns or imperative family matters, helping vulnerable persons and children.

So, in the strictest sense, your leaving the country for no "good" reason was arguably against the law (since you left the house without any of the forementioned).

In any case, neither FCO nor WHO, nor a similar body (French government is not in any way similar) said anything in particular, let alone "Brits leave France now".

On the contrary, the French government explicitly provided prolongation of visas with the law of the 24 march. Although as UK citizen, you do not need a visa, the intention is clear. It is the exact opposite of "everybody leave, now!". It means "stay where you are, even if your visa expires, you will not be ciminalized for that".

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    -1 That decree provides a list of reasons for leaving home. OP was not at home. I very much doubt that he broke the law by returning to his home given that if he didn't do so he would effectively be homeless (since the accommodation ordered him to leave). Furthermore, trip curtailment due to FCO advice will be just one of a multitude of risks that OP is covered for. Even if he can't successfully argue that, he may very well be able to claim under another e.g. ski piste closure if the policy covers it (something I've claimed for myself in the past). – JBentley Apr 13 '20 at 14:51
  • @JBentley: With all respect, but insisting literally on the word home for interpreting the ban of leaving home is more than just silly. Besides, it does not say "home" at all, it says "domicile" which is the place where you reside (including "home", and including a hotel). The intent of the wording is very clear, and it leaves absolutely no doubt as to what you are expected to do, or rather not to do ("déplacement" = moving, travelling, dislocating). – Damon Apr 13 '20 at 16:10
  • On the contrary, it is you who is interpreting it too literally. The intent behind the decree was to stop people from leaving their home for non-essential travel. It was not to stop people returning to their home from a hotel. Are you seriously proposing that the law intends that people in a hotel should continue to pay to stay there for the next 1-2 months instead of returning home? In OP's case he didn't even have a hotel as they had evicted him. If you disagree, you can always raise a question on law stackexchange. – JBentley Apr 13 '20 at 19:44
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    Also the legal term domicile does not mean anything even close to a hotel - it carries far more of a sense of permanence than that. So much so that some people go to great lengths to establish one for tax benefits. You don't acquire domicile by merely booking into a hotel for a few nights. – JBentley Apr 13 '20 at 19:47
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    Not so. It is definitively the intent of the decree. You absolutely do not want nicely spread out and mostly isolated people from all over the country to gather and rub against each other at train stations and airports where many people are contained in a small area. You do not want them to interact with homecomers who will then swarm out over the entire country (and who will use the taxis the leavers took to the airport, too). You do not want thousands of people to interact with staff from the general area (to which they'll go back after work) if you can avoid it. – Damon Apr 14 '20 at 18:29

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