The High Court has determined that a money lender, which acted as an intermediary for an insurance underwriter, was in breach of its duty to a customer by not disclosing its relationship with the underwriter or that it was receiving commission for the sale.

Details of the case:

  • The plaintiff borrowed money from GE Capital (“GE”) on three occasions between September 2007 and May 2008. GE acted as an intermediary for a separate but related entity, GE Money. GE earned commission from GE Money on the sale of insurance policies. 
  • Two choices of payment protection insurance were offered to the customer as part of his credit agreements and he availed of one option. 
  • A friend of the plaintiff’s subsequently informed him that the type of cover he chose may not have been appropriate for him. GE, upon request, cancelled the customer’s policy. The customer was however, out of pocket for his insurance premium. 
  • The customer claimed damages and argued that GE should have ensured that the policy sold to him was suitable. He also argued that GE should have disclosed the nature of their relationship with the underwriters and the fact that they were receiving commission on sale of its products.

Decision:

  • The Court rejected the customer’s argument about suitability because there was no evidence that the product was unsuitable. 
  • However, the Court agreed with the customer on the remainder of his arguments. It held that a consumer must be told the nature of the relationship between insurance intermediary and underwriter. 
  • The Court also held that the customer should have been made aware that GE was taking commission from GE money. It said that if a customer was aware of the commission, he “…might well feel that the product was not good value and might be less likely to buy it”. 

What can be learned from this case?

A money lender acting as an intermediary should be aware that a customer can take proceedings for damages for non-disclosure of certain facts. Before a customer buys an insurance product, they should be made aware of the relationship between the money lender and the insurance underwriter. They should also be made aware that the relationship is based on commission and what that level of commission is.

Larry Untoy v GE Captial Woodchester Finance Limited and GE Capital Woodchester Limited Trading As GE Money

The High Court, 25 August 2015