Cancelling French insurance policies: the loi Hamon explained
Making sure you double-check all your documents in France is a good policy for British expats, especially when it comes to cancelling insurance, says Guillaume Poissant
France has a different procedure for cancelling an insurance policy compared with the UK, however, recent changes in consumer law has made that procedure a lot easier and familiar for expats in France.
As the majority of insurance contracts (this includes home, car and top-up health policies) in France are set up on an automatic renewal basis (tacite reconduction), they will be automatically renewed unless you give the contractual amount of notice to cancel.
Contractual notice can be between one, two or three months before the renewal date (date anniversaire or échéance anniversaire) which should not be confused with the start date (date d’effet) of your contract.
However, as mentioned above, a new consumer law called the loi Hamon came into force in January 2015, which means that you will be able to cancel a private vehicle or house insurance contract at any date.
The loi Hamon rule applies from 1 January 2015 to contracts which are more than one year old. For contracts signed before 1 January 2015, as an exception during 2015 it will be possible to apply the new rule according to the loi Hamon but only after the next automatic tacit renewal has taken place (échéance annuelle).
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For example, a contract signed on 6 June 2012 with a renewal date of 1 June every year can be cancelled in 2015 either at the renewal date, by using the loi Chatel (20 days following the renewal notice) or by using the loi Hamon after 1 June 2015.
For home insurance contracts the loi Hamon requires the cancellation notice to be written in French and sent in the form of a letter or an email to the insurance company. Alternatively, your new insurance company can do this for you by sending notice via registered post on your behalf. The cancellation will take effect one month after receipt of the request for cancellation.
For car insurance contracts and house tenant contracts, it is the new insurance company which sends the cancellation letter by registered post to the former insurer informing them of the termination of the contract. The cancellation will take effect one month plus one day after receipt of the request for cancellation. If requested by the former insurer, the new insurance company must be able to provide a signed letter from the policy holder stating his consent and agreement (mandat) to act on his behalf.
Cancellation of your insurance contract is therefore something that you should anticipate in France in order to avoid having to pay for cover twice. Perhaps it is worth highlighting here the various solutions for cancelling a policy at the renewal date.
The first solution, résiliation à l’echéance, is to give at least two months’ notice (which could also be between one and three months depending on the insurance company’s terms and conditions which you should check) before the policy’s renewal date.
Once again this notice has to be in writing and in French, sent by registered post and it is vital that you keep the proof of postage (a duplicate receipt slip given to you at the post office at the time of posting). You will also receive a second duplicate receipt slip signed by the insurance company and left by la Poste in your letter box and this serves as confirmation that your letter has been received.
The second solution is to cancel according to the loi Chatel agreement. This entitles you to request a cancellation on receipt of a renewal notice sent to you by your insurance company. The renewal notice is usually sent by the insurance company at least one month before your policy’s renewal date, however, it can arrive up to 15 days before or after the renewal date.
The renewal notice sets out to inform you of the policy’s renewal terms (i.e. tacite reconduction), outline your cancellation rights (under the loi Chatel) and any change to your premium.
You have 20 days from the stamp date on the envelope to send your request for cancellation, which again has to be made in writing, in French and sent by registered post. You must mention in the letter that you are cancelling according to the terms and conditions of the loi Chatel. You should keep the renewal notice and date-stamped envelope safe in case of a dispute.
It is important to point out that the loi Chatel does not apply to registered businesses that have subscribed to a professional insurance and it does not work with private insurance policies (such as car, home and top-up health policies) which have been taken out with an insurance company that operates as a collective or members association (association d’adhérents).
Exceptions to the rule
It is possible to cancel an insurance contract mid-term in France but only in very specific cases, and the main one is where you have sold a house or vehicle.
If this is the case your insurance company will request proof of sale by way of the acte de vente (available from your notaire) for the property, or by way of a certificat de cession du véhicule (the document you complete with the new buyer) for the vehicle. Your contract will be cancelled within two weeks and you will be reimbursed any premium that may be due.
Other criteria for cancelling or stopping an insurance policy includes death of the policy holder, and again appropriate certification will be requested as proof by the insurance company in order to cancel the contract.
Guillaume Poissant is an agent général with AXA Poissant Insurance
Tel: 0033 (0)2 97 60 08 23