Insurance Law Alert

Court of Milan: misrepresentations under the proposal form on the security measures in place at inception entail a gross negligence

The Court of Milan, in its Judgement n. 4959/2015, published on 20 April 2015, R.G. n. 46086/2010, ruled that the misrepresentations of the assured on the security measures in place at inception of the policy, as represented under the proposal form, entail a gross negligence of the jeweller pursuant to art. 1892 of the Italian Civil Code (“codice civile”) and accordingly the insurer is not bound to pay the sum insured under the policy.

Article 1892 of the Italian Civil Code (“codice civile”) – named Misrepresentations or fraudulent or grossly negligent failure in disclose – provides that “If the contracting party, fraudulently or through gross negligence, misrepresents or fails to disclose circumstances which, if known to the insurer, would have caused him to withhold his consent to the contract, or to withhold his consent on the same conditions, the insurer can annul the contract. The insurer is entitled to the premiums covering the period of insurance running at the time when he petitioned for annulment of the contract, and in all cases to the premiums agreed upon for the first year. If the loss occurs before the expiration of the period indicated in the preceding paragraph, the insurer is not bound to pay the sum insured.

The Court further ruled that the fact that the security measures were not in place also at the time of the loss entails autonomously a loss caused by gross negligence of the assured pursuant to art. 1900 of the Italian Civil Code (“codice civile”) – named Loss caused by fraud or gross negligence of the Insured – which provides that “The insurer is not liable for losses caused by the fraud or gross negligence of the contracting party, of the insured, or of the beneficiary, unless there is an agreement to the contrary for cases of gross negligence.

New IVASS Regulation on simplification measures for contractual relationships

Following the public consultation launched on 18 March 2014, IVASS published the Regulation No. 8 of 3 March 2015 concerning measures to simplify the administration of contractual relationships between insurance undertakings, intermediaries and clients. The Regulation implements Article 22, paragraph 15-bis of Law Decree No. 179 of 18 October 2012, as converted into law which required IVASS to enact measures aimed at reducing the paper format requirements and promoting the use of digital documentation. Below are the main relevant provisions set out by the new Regulation.

Italian and EU insurance undertakings and intermediaries are required to foster the use of advanced electronic signature, qualified electronic signature and digital signature for the execution of the insurance agreements.

Furthermore, with an aim at promoting the use of traceable means of payment, insurance undertakings and intermediaries must allow clients to pay insurance premiums by means of electronic payment instruments.

In addition, before the execution of the agreement or the signing of the proposal, insurance undertakings and intermediaries may obtain the client’s consent – also through voice recordings or email – to the electronic transmission of the relevant documentation during both the pre-contractual and contractual phase of the relationship with the client.

Insurance undertakings and intermediaries must adopt a documentation management system aimed at avoiding requests to clients of documentation which is not necessary or which has been already obtained in relation to previous relationships with the same client.

Italian insurance undertakings and intermediaries must obtain a certified e-mail account (“Posta Elettronica Certificata” or “PEC”) and indicate the PEC address in any communication addressed to the public and on their website. However, it is worth noting that this obligation already apply, upon registering with the Companies’ Register, to companies (Law Decree 185/08, converted into Law no. 2 of 28 January 2009) and sole traders (art. 5 of Law Decree no. 179 of 18 October 2012).

Insurance undertakings and intermediaries will have 6 months from the entry into force of the Regulation (which shall occur 30 days from publication in the Italian Official Gazette) to comply with the new provisions regarding the PEC address and the establishment of the above-mentioned documentation management systems.

The Regulations apply to the promotion, distribution and management by companies and intermediaries of life and non-life insurance contracts. Instead the distribution of insurance products pursuant to the IVASS Regulation No. 34 of 19 March 2010 would remain excluded from the scope of the Regulation.

Consultation on the Insurance Block Exemption Regulation

The Insurance Block Exemption Regulation (“IBER”) is a sector-specific legal instrument that allows (re)insurers to benefit from an exemption to the prohibition of anti-competitive arrangements laid down in Article 101 (1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). At present, the exemption covers two types of agreements between (re)insurance undertakings:

  1. Agreements with respect to joint compilations, joint tables and studies; and
  2. Common coverage of certain types of risks (co (re)insurance pools).

The insurance sector is one of three sectors that still benefits from a block exemption regulation, since the concept of the direct applicability of the exemption of Article 101 (3) TFEU was introduced with Council Regulation 1/2003. The IBER expires on 31 March 2017 and the Commission will consider whether any parts of it would merit a renewal. In this regard, the Commission is required to submit a report on the functioning and the future of the IBER to the European Parliament and the Council by March 2016. The Commission is therefore gathering views and market information to carry out its assessment.

To that purpose the Commission has drawn a Questionnaire and invited all stakeholders to submit all relevant information on the functioning of the IBER, as well as their views on whether the Commission should renew any of the IBER provisions in a new block exemption regulation. Input from stakeholders will be a key element for the Commission’s assessment. The Commission welcomes comments in particular from (re)insurance undertakings, industry associations, insurance intermediaries, public authorities, consumer organisations and customers, as well as competition practitioners, researchers and think tanks. Comments from other stakeholders who have direct experience with the application of the IBER are also welcome.

The return of the Italian mandatory mediation procedure

On 24 October 2012, the Italian Constitutional Court declared invalid the provision of Legislative Decree n. 28 dated 4 March 2010 which had implemented the mandatory mediation procedure for the resolution of certain disputes.

Article 87 of the Italian Decree Law No. 69 of 21 June 2013 reintroduced the mandatory mediation for cross-border and domestic disputes, which had been covered by Italian Legislative Decree No. 28 of 4 March 2010.

The mediation procedure includes disputes on insurance matters (with the exception of motor third party liability litigation), medical and hospital liability.

Furthermore, among other changes it has been introduced Section 185 bis into the Italian Code of Civil Procedure, which requires the Court to “(…) formulate a proposal for amicable settlement or arrangement to the parties (…)”, also specifying that “(…) the rejection of the proposal made by the Court, without a justified reason, shall constitute conduct that may be considered (…) for the purposes of the ruling”.

The new provisions concerning the mandatory mediation shall enter into force on 21 September 2013.

The Italian mandatory mediation procedure of cross-border and domestic disputes is effective as of 20 March 2011

By Legislative Decree No. 28 dated 4 March 2010 (the “Decree”), the European Mediation Directive 2008/52/EC (the Directive) has been implemented in Italy. The Directive is part of a European-wide initiative to promote and regulate the development of mediation throughout the EU. The Directive itself should apply only to mediation in cross-border disputes, but nothing should prevent Member States from applying such provisions also to internal mediation processes.

The mediation procedures introduced by the Decree, which covers both cross-border and domestic disputes, only apply to claims/rights which can be freely disposed of by the relevant parties (“Diritti Disponibili”) as opposed to rights which cannot be freely disposed of by the relevant individuals (e.g.: Italian family law).

The Decree has introduced two kinds of mediation procedure:

  • mandatory procedure which applies to any possible litigation in relation to insurance, banking and financial agreements as well as other matters such as joint ownership, property rights, division of assets, hereditary and family law, leases in general, gratuitous loans, leases of going concern, compensation for damages due to car/nautical accidents, medical liability or defamation/libel; and
  • non-mandatory procedure which applies to any civil and commercial litigation regarding matters other than those listed above.

The mandatory mediation procedure is effective as of 20 March 2011 except for any possible litigation in relation to joint ownership and compensation for damages due to car/nautical accidents which will be effective as of 20 March 2012.

The procedure is mandatory in the sense that from such date all plaintiffs prior to bringing legal proceedings shall have to try to settle disputes falling within this “mandatory” category by mediation. Legal advisers to the relevant parties shall also have a duty to inform their clients about mediation and are under obligation to try to resolve disputes by way of mediation.

The mediation procedures established under the Decree may be brought before any of the mediation organisations mentioned in Article 16 of the Decree and the applicable procedure shall follow the rules applied by the body chosen by the parties.

However, where there are alternative mediation procedures available, the plaintiffs will have the option to use either the procedure as set out in the Decree or the alternatives. Two alternative mediation procedures are currently in force in Italy, which can be used instead of the mediation procedure under the Decree in relation to certain banking and financial disputes (see Legislative Decree No. 179 dated 8 October 2007 and art. 128 bis of the Italian Banking Law).

The European Court of Justice, in its Judgment in joined cases C-317/08, C-318/08, C-319/08, and C-320/08for a preliminary ruling issued on 18 March 2010, held that EU directives and general principles do not preclude national legislation which imposes prior implementation of an out-of-court settlement procedure, provided that that procedure does not result in a decision which is binding on the parties, that it does not cause a substantial delay for the purposes of bringing legal proceedings, that it suspends the period for the time-barring of claims and that it does not give rise to costs – or gives rise to very low costs – for the parties, and only if electronic means is not the only means by which the settlement procedure may be accessed and interim measures are possible in exceptional cases where the urgency of the situation so requires.

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