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Uber drivers hit section 54 dead-end

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Two more Uber drivers have had claims knocked back because they failed to disclose to their insurer that they were using their vehicles for commercial ridesharing services.

insuranceNEWS.com.au reported a case earlier this year of a driver who appealed to the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) about a declined claim. AFCA backed the insurer, and has now ruled on two similar cases, again dismissing insureds’ complaints.

The drivers, both insured by Auto & General, argued that section 54 of the Insurance Contracts Act prevents the insurer from declining the claim because their accidents took place while the vehicles were being used in a personal capacity.

AFCA agrees that “generally, where the act or omission relied on by the insurer was not capable of causing or contributing to the loss, the insurer is prevented from declining the claim”.

However, it also says that section 54 is only relevant to acts or omissions occurring after a contract has been entered into.

Both drivers had started using their vehicles for ridesharing prior to renewal of their policies, and had not disclosed the change of use at renewal. Therefore section 54 “cannot be applied”.

The previous case also involved a customer of Auto & General, but the insured made a claim during the first period of insurance.

The accident also occurred while the vehicle was being driven for personal use, but the insurer argued section 54 still would not apply because “the insurer’s liability in respect of the claim is reduced by the amount that fairly represents the extent to which the insurer’s interests were prejudiced”.

Auto & General said its prejudice is “the entirety of the claim”, because if the complainant had notified it of the change of use, it would not have been on risk when the loss occurred.

AFCA agreed with that interpretation. “The underwriting guidelines state the insurer would not have insured any vehicle that was used to carry passengers for reward,” it said.

“I am satisfied the insurer has established that it would have cancelled the policy had the complainant informed it of the vehicle’s change of use and would therefore not have been on risk for the vehicle at the time of loss.

“This means section 54 of the Act does not assist the complainant and the insurer was entitled to decline the claim.”

Click here for the latest ruling, and here for the earlier one.