French insurance law still reflects this saying by a French clerk who lived in the nineteenth century: French "insured friendly law” protects the insured (the weak) against the insurer (the strong).
This general approach can be illustrated by recent examples drawn from the insurer’s “duty to inform” the insured of certain information.
When some life-insurers are not able to prove that they have provided the insured with specified pre-contractual information, the insured will be entitled to cancel its unit-linked policies where there has been a drop in the value of the contract.
According to new regulations which will come into force on 1 July 2010, life insurers must first analyse and then outline the financial needs of customers, then establish the adequacy of the insurance coverage for the insured’s stated financial needs (article L132-27-1 of the Insurance Code). Should the insurer not fulfil this duty, the insured can argue that his consent to the contract was vitiated.
Furthermore, life insurers must remind customers of the two year limitation period for all claims resulting from insurance contracts. Following a recent case (Cour de Cassation 3 September 2009), insurers must now remind customers of this principle but also explain all the provisions applicable to limitation periods as described in articles L 114-1,114-2 and 114-3 of the Insurance Code. If they fail to do this, the limitation period cannot operate in the insurer's favour.
More generally, where insurers fail to provide pre-contractual information, the courts may hold them liable on grounds of general civil liability (article 1382 of the French Civil Code).
Some may consider that French insurance law is now getting close to oppressing the strong, rather than liberating the weak!