There was some discussion in our comments yesterday about insurance coverage for the coronavirus outbreak.
A reader had contacted American Express Platinum and been told that, basically, he was stuffed. Amex said that they would refuse to pay out if he travelled and fell ill but would also refuse to pay out if he cancelled.
I took a look at a different insurance policy I hold. It includes this line, which I thought was standard across all travel insurance policies:
Cancellation and curtailment/loss of holiday
If beneficiaries are forced to:
a) cancel their trip as a direct and necessary result of any cause listed below: [snip]
(vi) The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office or the equivalent government authority in the beneficiary’s country of residence advising against ‘all travel’ or ‘all but essential travel’ to the beneficiary’s intended destination.
(vi) is, of course, where we are now with coronavirus, with the Foreign Office advising against all but essential travel.
I had a look at the Amex Platinum insurance document (download it here) and in theory it backs up what the reader was told by the call centre. I also asked a barrister friend to take a look and he confirmed my interpretation. With Amex Platinum insurance there appears to be no option which allows you to cancel if the Foreign Office says you should not go. You need to look at Section 1.2.
The clause below, from Section 1.9, is from the list of reasons why American Express Platinum will not pay out:
14) Trips in, or booked to, countries where a government agency has advised against travelling or which are officially under embargo by the United Nations.
You can see why the call centre told our reader that he was not covered. On a strict reading of the document, my interpretation is the same – Amex won’t pay up if you don’t go (see Section 1.2) and they won’t pay up if you do go and fall ill (see Section 1.9).
However, I spoke to Amex yesterday about this case. It told me, in writing, that they would settle claims for anyone who has to cancel a trip to China due to coronavirus. Confusingly it pointed to Section 1.2 as proof, but under Section 1.2 the ONLY acceptable reasons for cancellation are:
a) You, or a person travelling with You, or a person You are visiting for the main purpose of Your Trip, having an accident, suffering an unforeseen illness or dying before or during Your Trip;
b) Your Close Relative, or a Close Relative of a person travelling with You, or a Close Relative of a person You are visiting for the main purpose of Your Trip, having an accident, suffering an unforeseen illness or dying before or during Your Trip;
c) Your redundancy which qualifies for redundancy payments under current legislation;
d) You being called for jury service or being subpoenaed as a witness other than in a professional or advisory capacity;
e) Unforeseen severe damage to Your home or Your business premises if the damage caused is likely to be more than £25,000;
f) Theft at Your home or Your business premises that requires Your presence by the police;
g) A delay of more than 12 hours on the outward leg of Your Trip as a result of industrial action, adverse weather, mechanical breakdown of public transport, or a transportation accident which means You no longer want to go on Your Trip
….. which makes no sense as Section 1.2 clearly does not list ‘Foreign Office guidance’ as an acceptable reason to cancel – but I will take their word for it. Any other readers who are being fobbed off by the call centre may want to call back.
This is not the first time that we have had issues with Amex and the wording of its insurance documents. Anyone with raised cholesterol, for example, is not covered for any medical conditions which can be linked to it. That said, I can honestly say that – in numerous claims I have made over the years – it has paid out even when I had not acted strictly in accordance with the rules.
PS. If you missed it, take a look at our recent article on 10 reasons why you should get the American Express Platinum card.
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