The insurance sector is also working to tackle the socio-economic impact of the coronavirus crisis
The Belgian insurance sector will be doubling up efforts to mitigate the negative impact of the coronavirus crisis on private individuals, households, the self-employed and companies. Over the next few months, insurance companies will show great flexibility towards customers in difficulty and will make sure that they remain permanently covered. The sectoral organisation Assuralia has just reached an agreement on this issue, which was facilitated by the National Bank, with the backing of the FSMA and the Federal Government.
After the numerous initiatives taken by the public authorities and the banking sector in the last couple of weeks to alleviate the economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, it is now the Belgian insurance sector’s turn to make further effort.
Attention is mainly focused on the groups in society that are the worst hit by the economic fallout from the coronavirus crisis, the many workers in temporary lay-off and companies forced to close their doors or whose economic activity has been sharply curbed.
The package of measures announced today by Assuralia, the insurance companies’ professional union, forms part of the work of the Economic Risk Management Group (ERMG), that the Federal Government has set up to tackle the economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.
More specifically, the idea is to show flexibility towards people who are facing payment difficulties, to give some respite to those who have to repay a mortgage, to provide a scheme regarding mortgage protection insurance and fire insurance (this latter provision concerns anyone who has become unemployed as a result of the crisis). It is also important for insurers to commit to continuing to protect staff in the event of temporary unemployment.
Below is a list of the measures taken:
- For natural persons laid off temporarily because of the Covid-19 virus:
- The insurance sector undertakes to extend, with no further formalities, cover for pension, death, disability and hospitalisation under group insurance (contracted by employers) for all those laid off temporarily. The payment of premiums due by employers in this context is deferred until 30 September 2020.
- Interest and capital repayments on mortgage loans contracted with insurance companies, as well as payment of premiums on mortgage protection insurance, are suspended until 30 September 2020, provided that insurance policy-holders can prove that they are facing financial difficulties because of the Covid-19 crisis. This agreement is fully in line with that concluded by the government with the banks. In addition, a payment deferral until 30 September will also be able to be obtained for home insurance premiums linked to mortgage loans falling due between 30 March and 30 September 2020. This last provision only applies to people who have been laid off.
- As far as all other types of insurance are concerned, policy-holders who are facing difficulty in paying their premium are asked to contact their insurer or intermediary directly to examine whether an adequate solution can be found.
- For companies hit by the Covid-19 crisis:
- The insurance sector would point out that some types of insurance cover (accidents at work, third-party liability, etc.) already provide for subsequent premium adjustments in the event of any reduction in business activity. This adjustment is made automatically. Moreover, companies that are forced to suspend their activities in accordance with the public authorities’ request will be able to obtain a payment deferral, by agreement with their insurer, for all premiums falling due between 30 March and 30 September 2020. For any other possible measures concerning the suspension of contracts, companies are recommended to contact their insurer or intermediary directly.
- As for loans granted to companies, the insurers will also follow the conditions already set for the banking sector, namely a loan repayment delay (interest payments and capital repayments) until 30 September 2020.
Minister for Employment, Economy and Consumers
Nathalie Muylle, Minister for Employment, Economy and Consumers, said: “We are currently taking all possible steps to limit the damage caused to our economy and maintaining households’ purchasing power. The important thing is to enable a rapid recovery of the economy. We therefore need to commend the measures taken by the insurance sector in these exceptional circumstances so as to continue to cover risks to companies and private households.”
Over the last few days, the National Bank has been holding intense negotiations with the insurance sector on this package of measures. “We are very pleased that the insurance industry, like the banking sector, is in turn also assuming its socio-economic responsibilities”, said National Bank of Belgium Director Jean Hilgers. “We are also well aware that these measures come at a time when the insurance sector is already feeling the negative effects of the wave of turbulence on the financial markets. In fact, the downward trend on the stock markets and the widening of several EU Member States’ bond spreads are already exerting a negative impact on the insurers’ prudential balance sheet, which is traditionally valued at market value. In this difficult context, we would like to thank Assuralia and its members for this initiative.”
Hilde Vernaillen,President of Assuralia: “Insurers are displaying their solidarity, on the one hand, by granting a premium payment deferral to the most needy people and, on the other hand, by maintaining protection of vital supplementary insurance cover (death, invalidity and hospitalisation) in group insurance for anyone who has been laid off temporarily.”
“Many consumers have been badly hit by the necessary measures taken in the context of the Covid-19 epidemic. It is therefore important that financial sector stakeholders make every effort to help consumers in these difficult times”, said FSMA Chairman Jean-Paul Servais. “The measures taken by the insurance sector are a very useful contribution in this respect. Consumers also need to have accurate and understandable information about the specific measures taken in this crisis. This is why the FSMA is urging banks and insurance companies to be proactive with their communication on this matter. The FSMA is working on setting up in the short term a call centre where consumers will be able to ask any questions they may have”, Mr Servais added.