EAST Londonderry MLA Claire Sugden has urged insurance companies to respond fairly and swiftly to claims made by businesses suffering because of COVID-19.
Many businesses forced to close have had claims rejected.
Responding to requests for assistance from business owners, Ms Sugden said insurers should adhere to both the spirit and letter of the policies. She took part in an Assembly committee meeting on Monday to hear from the Association of British Insurers.
“Businesses have understandably considered themselves to have been covered for their forced closures during this pandemic,” she said.
“Many are now facing permanent closure, despite making the responsible decision to comprehensively insure their businesses.
“Insurers should behave equally responsibly and support their business customers as much as possible.”
Most businesses that had approached their insurers had done so under the “business interruption” clause, the MLA said.
Many insurers, however, were refusing to pay out, saying the clause did not cover interruptions caused by a pandemic. Even insurers that covered infectious diseases were not paying out, either because COVID-19 was not on a specific list of covered diseases, or because pandemics were “global” as opposed to being confined to one business.
“There’s danger that business owners will lose faith in the value of insurance, after diligently paying premiums for years only to be let down,” Ms Sugden said.
“There needs to be comprehensive support from both the government and the private sector to ensure businesses don’t close in even larger numbers.”