Axa takes out the checkbook to turn the page on Covid.
According to our information, the insurer will put 300 million euros on the table to amicably resolve the dispute between it and some of its restaurant customers.
Since the start of the pandemic and the first closure of these establishments, on March 14, 2020 at midnight, some 1,500 of the 15,000 employers holding a professional multi-risk insurance contract - with a loss of business guarantee without damage - have indeed taken the insurer to court.
The controversy relates to this guarantee which provides for compensation in the event of an administrative closure, in particular if it is the consequence of "an epidemic".
But the contract also includes an exclusion clause if "at least one other establishment in the department" is administratively closed for the same reasons.
The problem is therefore to know if the Covid falls within the scope of this guarantee.
Axa has so far refused to compensate for this operating loss, believing that this contract does not cover national or global epidemics such as the Covid, but simply gastroenteritis or even legionella type epidemics confined to a single establishment. The restorers who got involved in the legal fight considered that the exclusion clause rendered meaningless the guarantee granted. In the various judgments handed down for 15 months now, the various jurisdictions have sometimes ruled in favor of the restaurateurs (the Aix en Provence Court of Appeal, on May 20), and sometimes the insurer (the Bordeaux Court of Appeal, this Monday).
It is to get out of this legal confusion and allow professionals to leave the crisis behind and calmly resume their activity that AXA has decided to reach out to restaurateurs.
According to our information, the 15,000 restaurateurs concerned by this contract, whether or not they have taken legal action against the insurer and, if so, whether or not they have won their case, are affected by this proposal for amicable solution.
Even those who were insured with the group in 2020 and who chose to change insurer in 2021 are eligible.
The approximately 3,000 general agents of AXA should also quickly contact the business leaders concerned to begin discussions and complete compensation as quickly as possible.
An amendment to correct the situation
The insurance giant had already reached an agreement in 2020 with just under 2,000 other restaurateurs who benefited from a contract with a similar clause, but drafted in a more "ambiguous" manner. The fight was first carried by the media Stéphane Manigold, owner of four restaurants in Paris and spokesperson for the collective “Stay open”. He had won a battle against Axa at the Paris Commercial Court, before the two sides reached an amicable settlement.
In addition, to get out of legal vagueness, Axa in November 2020 submitted to its policyholders an endorsement excluding any guarantee of operating losses in the event of a pandemic. It is up to them to accept it or to take out insurance with another company from January 1st. A letter which had been received freshly at the time by the restaurateurs. "This amendment responds to a recommendation from the Prudential Control and Resolution Authority (ACPR) to change this type of contract, after the confusion that has reigned since the start of the Covid-19 crisis", then explained the insurer.