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Help! I changed my house insurer and now I'm being sued!


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This must be an issue that affects British ex-pats in France from time to time, so hopefully someone will be able to tell me what my options are, or what to expect. When my house insurance came up for renewal, I found an English insurer who gave the same cover for about 60% of the price. I wrote to the French insurer (I probably wouldn't have bothered if they were English) in February, that I would not be renewing with them. The reminders kept coming, then the final demands, then the whole affair was passed to (apparently) a debt collection agency. As it stands now, the Huissiers have been engaged and the interest has been heaped on at an ever increasing rate. My nieghbour informed me a couple of weeks ago, that they require three months notice. As it happens I gave them under one month, but I didn't have a clue what was required. Can they really demand the whole year's premium, including legal cover? The insurance was organised by the immobilier ten years ago, and although I've systematically stored all documents and paperwork, I don't remember ever seeing a 'terms and conditions', nor is there one in my file. The feeling of hopelessness is overtaking me, what can/should I do?


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Crikey, well insurance is a world of it's own and they do try it on. Our broker was a really nice gent but the witches who sat around him wow seem to think they owned the property and we must pay them!  Therefore it could be true, someone will surely know however if that is the case then you have two insurances on the same property (double indemnity) and that is against the principle of insurance so the UK you should be able to get the premiums back and then insure with them next time.

Have you received the policy document from the French insurers, if not then they might not be able to enforce their claim as that is a document that forms part of the insurance contract.

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French policies renew automatically; so cancelling a policy, even at renewal time, must be done in a prescribed manner (cancelling outside renewal time can only happen in certain circumstances).  Unfortunately, I suspect you haven't followed the correct procedure.

Type 'assurance + habitation + résiliation' into Google and I think you'll find the answers you want, for example from this French Government website.  Go http://vosdroits.service-public.fr/particuliers/F19083.xhtml

But it's a bit complicated, so:

1. The basic situation is that you must cancel by sending a lettre recommandée, preferably with accusé de réception, 2 months before the renewal date.  If you don't, you will be liable for the full year's premium.

However, this was modified by the loi Chatel under which:

2.  In theory, the insurance company should send you a letter reminding you of this right to cancel.  (This letter should be sent not more than 3 months before the renewal date, and not less than 15 days before the start of the 2 month period).  However, in practice, the insurance companies don't send this 'reminder' letter.  Instead they just send you a renewal letter ...

3.  And, under the loi Chatel, you then have 20 days from the date of this renewal letter to cancel - as always, by lettre recommandée, preferably with accusé de réception.

4.  If you don't get a renewal letter, then you can cancel at any time without penalties by sending them a lettre recommandée etc.



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I believe your previous insurers were obliged to send you a renweal notice at least one month before the renewal date.  You can then decline the renewal with no penalty.  This is what I did about 3 years ago when I discovered that my insurer (no names but sounds like A tool for felling trees) was charging me a huge amount compared to other companies.

This insurer only sent me reminders after the start of the new period, not one month before.  I sent a registered letter pointing this out and declining the renewal.  I did not hear anything more.

If you did not receive a renewal reminder perhaps you have a case?

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I have been through the same process with A*A as I too would not accept them sending out the renewal quotes after the expiry and hence tacit renouvellement of the old Policy. I will explain further on what followed.

Now in my case I cancelled all 3 policies, 2 were within the required time one was one day before not that it makes any difference to them as they will just ignore your rights and pursue you anyway, 99.9% of the French are scared stiff by it and will pay, you wont find anyone to help you as sadly they will all think that you are mad and will go to prison, such is their ignorance and fear of authority.

If you had not recieved the renewal notice within the prescribed time you can cancel,I think it says you can cancel at any time if they dont respect their obligations.

What you will recieve for approx 18 months will be a series of ever more threatening letters from debt collectors and faux huissiers before they finally give up.

A couple of key points, after about 3 months into the new Policy if they are not paid they will cancel (resilié) the Policy by recorded letter, this is the only communication that you have from them thats Worth keeping, you can bin the rest if you want, they certainly wont take any notice of any letters that you send them.

Are you certain that they have engaged a huissier and its not just another collection agency pretending to be one? -Some of the letters can be very convincing and one had me worried. I bet interest and fines have not been added and that they are just giving you the false impression that they have.

A huissier cannot be engaged to act unless thay have taken you to the tribunale and won, to do so you would have been summonsed (convoqué) by registered letter, I bet this has not happened, only the tribunal can make an award and interest etc to be recovered by a huissier.

You will be OK but you wont lack for letters for 18 months.

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Wow! I had a feeling that others would have had similar experiences, thanks for all your replies. The renewal was due 1/3/14. I organised the new insurance on the day I got the quote from M*A, and sent a hand written letter to cancel the first policy, not sent recorded delivery. That was the 9/2/14, so the reminder was sent to me less than a month before it was due, as has been my experience from previous years. The debt collection agency letters have a different postmark, but they struck me as not being genuine for several reasons, not least of all because of stories in the British press about so-called debt collectors for banks, being just a desk in the branch with no actual debt collecting credentials. And yes, they have ignored every letter I've sent them.

It seems a contradiction that, if you are obliged to give two months notice, you only see the quote for the next year's premium one month (or less) before renewal. And the moral of the story...if you are about to insure your French property...for goodness sake don't touch French insurance companies. To be fair, though, the one story I'd heard along these lines was from someone with a property in Spain. They are obliged to give two months notice, with the same penalties for blundering into the trap.

Now...when I've worked up the courage...I'l open this new letter, postmarked 'Bourges'.
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I agree with both ventodue and Chancer.

ventodue has clearly explained the process for cancelling, and if you didn't do it by lettre recommandée they have you by the xxxs in theory

However as Chancer says many of the threatening letters sent out are bluff, with collection agencies masquerading as huissiers.

One such is Intrum in Justitia

. Parmi ces méthodes sont souvent cités les appels téléphoniques à

répétition sur un ton agressif ne laissant aucune possibilité de

s'exprimer au débiteur supposé, l'amalgame entre recouvrement amiable

(le business d'IJ) et recouvrement judiciaire (pour lequel ils ne

peuvent qu'initialiser une poursuite suite à laquelle le juge entendra

le débiteur supposé, et encore seulement à condition qu'IJ ait racheté

la créance et que le débiteur ait donné son accord à ce rachat, toutes

choses dont IJ n'informerait pas ses "victimes"), l'impossibilité

d'accéder à un humain, que ce soit par téléphone, courriel ou courrier,

ces derniers ne semblant jamais être pris en compte.


Remember that a 'huissier' has to have been to a juge before being able to act, so unless they can produce a jugement  which is highly unlikely, just ignore them.

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[quote user="Jimbo"]When my house insurance came up for renewal … I wrote to the French insurer in February that I would not be renewing with them.  I gave them under one month’s (notice) [/quote]

See my post above.  You will be ok IF you did so within 20 days of the date of the renewal notice.  Did you write to them by lettre recommandée?


[quote user="Jimbo"]Can they really demand the whole year's premium, including legal cover?[/quote]

Potentially, yes.


[quote user="Jimbo"]My neighbour informed me that they require three months notice.[/quote]

He’s wrong.  See my post above.


[quote user="Jimbo"]...but I didn't have a clue what was required.[/quote]

Hmmm.  Sorry to say it, but you do know the adage, 'Ignorance is no defence'?


[quote user="Jimbo"]The reminders kept coming, then the final demands[/quote]

Sorry (again), but I gotta ask: and what did you do in response?

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Whilst comments like "they have you by the Ghoulies" and "ignorance is no defence of the law" are technically correct they are not particularly helpfull in this case and will only serve to increase anxiety.

It will continue to be worrying for up to 18 months and you will recieve a succession of ever increasing threats from other "debt collectors" many masquerading as huissiers, in fact they are increasingly desperate, the only letter(s) that you need concern yourself with is a recommandée from either the insurer or the local tribunal, the latter you wont get but obviously I need to mention it.

Your insurer knows that they have lost you but in common with all of them they default to not acknowledging letters and intimidation, they dont however want bad publicity (remember their tactics are very effective with the French) so they have already "sold on" the debt to the first of these parasite collection agencies together with thousands of others for a few centimes foe each Euro, the collection agencies cannot instruct a tribunal and the insurer doesnt want to be reported in the papers as having brought and lost an unwarranted claim.

The "debt" (which isnt unless a tribunal decides so) will be sold on and on to the more and more unscrupulous and after about 18 months you will hear no more. This was the advice given to me when I was in your position and it turned out to be on the money for all 3 cases. 

Editted, re "what did you do in response?" - I know from bitter experience that there is no point responding, all communications will be ignored and it will only serve to Wind you up and cost you money on postage. I have now taken a leaf out of their books and disregard anything that isnt recommandée although they even ignore them.

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Too late for the OP but the law on this is changing.  We subscribe to Que Choisir (like "Which" in UK)  and a month or two ago there was an article about this.  I am out for the rest of today but will look for the wording etc later and post tomorrow.

From memory house and car insurance will be able to be cancelled at any time (with notice) - but not health insurance. I think the start date is November this year. Sorry to be vague but will post again as soon as I have found my back-copy of the magazine.

Be interesting to see the various insurance companies' reaction to this!!!

Mrs H

Edit:  PS  I have found the article which is quite long so I will try to scan and copy into this thread tomorrow.  In the meantime, if I understand it correctly, it is "art. L. 113-15-2 du code de la consommation" and the article is included in a section called La Loi Hamon.  It applies once the insurance has been in place for one year and then one can cancel at any time and just pay the apportioned premium. It says just a simple letter or "mail" will do to cancel but...I would not try that.  The article is in the Juillet-août 2014 edition No. 1099 of the magazine. There are exceptions for businesses - it is aimed at "particuliers".

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As worrying as it must seem I'm in full agreement with Chancer.

I'm currently being harassed for a protection juridique policy which as far as I'm concerned was properly cancelled when I changed the actual insurer for the car.

I heard nothing for about 3 years and then out of the blue about a year ago comes a demand for payment for it which of course I didn't pay and in fact just ignored.

Maybe once every couple of months a month since I've got a threatening letter from an outfit called EFICO and they even occasionally phone me up and every time I tell them why I'm not paying it and have no intention of ever paying it they say OK and go away - until the next time.

Last time was in fact just last week and the woman asked me to write them a letter explaining what I had told her and why I wouldn't pay but I refused that too, I said I've told you my reasons and told others before, so you can pass it on.

Maybe if I receive a signed for letter I MIGHT take a bit more notice but until then they can whistle for it.

Oh, and Chancer will love this, it's AxA !

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My comment about sending a lettre recommandée is intended for other readers of this thread who might like to note that they are less likely to find themselves in this situation if they do as requested rather than ignoring the normal procedure, as well as for the OP.

I agree that one can probably wriggle out of it as I said above, but it is best not to get into it in the first place.

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Quite right Norman but in my case at least even the lettre reccomandée was ignored yet I had the accusé de réception.

I would have wiped the floor with them on two of the three policies and for the other I had a letter from the agent where he deliberately miswrote it saying "nous pouvons accepter votre demande" and then claiming it should have been "nous ne pouvons pas accepter votre demande".

They must send all their agents to slime school [:D]

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A Google.fr search will reveal that AXA systematically send out all their renewals at the expiry of the insured period yet dated one month before and that they systematically pursue payments for policies that were correctly résilié, just proving that  french laws only apply to the god fearing pigeons
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Guys...I never dreamed I'd get such a wealth of useful info on the subject, I'm truly grateful. There is one more dimension which just might be in my favour. I'm not a French resident, as I live and work in the UK, I can only get to stay in la belle France for about 45 days of the year, until my retirement in just under five years. All correspondence is sent to my address in the UK, so far. Not knowing what to expect, I imagined that the bailiffs might call round and take goods to the value, currently just passing through 500 Euros. Most of the time they'd find no-one there, but I also encourage friends, family and colleagues to go and make use of the place for free. It's the least I can do to help the local economy, after saddling them with an absent resident. I had visions of guests being confronted by belligerent callers, but then, maybe I'm just being pessimistic. It's time for me to re-assess all my correspondence and decide on a strategy.

Incidentally, I have been following another blog (Astra 2F and 2E reception) here and on Rob's satellite, and seeing contributors from those blogs on this one made me feel at home. Thanks.

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Jimbo best of luck.

When we bought we insured via a French agent. The cost kept going up so got quotes from UK based companies and it was cheaper. Did not renew via the French agent - cannot remember how we cancelled - and insured with the UK based company (not AXA UK :) )

The benefits are that the policy is in English - you may be fluent in French so this point does not matter. PLUS not subject to the ridiculous French rules.
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[quote user="Jimbo"]It seems a contradiction that, if you are obliged to give two months notice, you only see the quote for the next year's premium one month (or less) before renewal. [/quote]

Ok, just to try to clear this up (I did say it's complicated, and in a way that only the fierce application of French logic can complicate things.  Hey, it's a 'cultural thing').

1.  Yes, your basic right is to be able to cancel the policy giving at least 2 months notice before the expiry date.

2.  However, how many people think to do this in time?  So Luc Chatel added a little rider to this basic right: the insurance company now has to remind you of this right.  When they don't do this (which they won't, and everyone knows they won't), you then have 20 days to cancel from the date of the renewal letter.  This right, btw, WILL be written somewhere in small type on the back of the letter.

Btw, on the proposed Hamon modification: Don't hold your breath.  I read in Les Echos at the week-end that the insurance industry is campaigning for this to be put back to the second half of 2015.  And given that Hamon is no longer a member of the government ...

[quote user="Jimbo"]And the moral of the story...if you are about to insure your French property...for goodness sake don't touch French insurance companies. [/quote]

A tad harsh, Jimbo.  However, "Don't touch certain French insurance companies, especially one whose name begins with A", I would agree with!

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This is the article in Que Choisir that I mentioned in an earlier post. I have not seen any suggestion that this law be put back to 2015 (per previous poster) but I am sure they will try anything to avoid it.  We have had friends followed out of the insurance agent's office by threatening staff when they cancelled and they are still being chased for money. This was not the company that has been mentioned earlier either!  Sorry that this excerpt is so odd looking. I scanned it so it remains in the size etc of the original.  The article was in the July/August Que Choisir.

Mrs H.

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They are certainly attempting to get the start date pushed back to mid-2015


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