GB Churches await result of insurance test case

Ecclesiastical Insurance in test case by Financial Conduct Authority

Churches protected by Ecclesiastical Insurance await the outcome of a case which will see how liable they are for damages resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.

The company which is the market leader in insurance for church buildings, particularly for the Anglican Church and also insures Canterbury Cathedral.

It’s one of a number of insurance firms challenged by the Financial Watchdog on what they are prepared to payout as a result of the pandemic.

The insurance firm which encourages parishes to ‘put your faith in us’ markets itself as an ethical provider.

Some have accused the insurer of following the letter rather than the spirit of policies.

In a letter published in the Sunday Times last month, Mary Woolley in Lynton in Devon stated Ecclesiastical Insurance covered her local parish for losses from infectious diseases, but only from an approved list which did not include COVID-19.

The policy also covered the parish for prevention of access by government, police or local authority, she said, but excluded closure due to infectious disease.

The Financial Conduct Authority, whose test case begins on Monday 20th July, says: ‘Ecclesiastical appears to deny there was any prevention of access to churches at any time, any hindrance of access to churches at any time, any prevention of use of churches at any time, any hindrance of use of churches prior to 23 March 2020…. This is an untenable position.’

Churches are required by the Church of England to be insured and where buildings are listed, premiums can be high. Income is generated by weekly collections and with churches closed donations have fallen.

The case which began yesterday hopes to bring clarity on whether or not business insurance policies should pay out for Covid-19 related claims and churches will not be the only ones interested in the outcome. Hundreds of small businesses await news of whether they are eligible to make a claim from a range of other insurers.

The defendants in the test case are: Arch Insurance (UK), Argenta Syndicate Management, Ecclesiastical Insurance Office, Hiscox Insurance Company, MS Amlin Underwriting, QBE UK, RSA UK, and Zurich Insurance.