On 4 June 2014, Federal Law No. 149-FZ dated 4 June 2014 “On Amending the Law of the Russian Federation “On Insurance in the Russian Federation” and certain laws of the Russian Federation” became effective (the “Law”).

The amendments introduced by the Law are, in particular, aimed at regulating the procedure under which an insurer and an insured, policy holder or beneficiary exchange electronic documents in order to enter into an insurance contract. They apply to both voluntary and mandatory insurance. In relation to mandatory insurance, the Law only refers to the general possibility of exchanging documents electronically, whilst the specificities of this type of exchange are to be established in further special laws relating to the various types of mandatory insurance. In practice, this means that mandatory insurance contracts will be more strictly regulated.

How does e-insurance work?

An insurer’s website may be used as an IT system through which an insured can send their application and any other documents to the insurance company to enter into an insurance contract, or to provide notification of the occurrence of an insured event or of the payment of an insurance premium. The rules on the use of the website can be described in the general terms and conditions of insurance (insurance rules) and/or any other agreement concluded between the insurer and an insured.

The documents sent in this manner within the voluntary insurance system are legally binding and are deemed to have been signed in the insured’s own handwriting provided their basic digital signature was applied. Under Russian law (more specifically, Federal Law No. 63-FZ “On Digital Signature” (“Law No. 63-FZ”)), the most basic type of digital signature is a signature which evidences the fact that a certain person created their digital signature using codes, passwords or other means.

A voluntary insurance contract is deemed to have been made in electronic form if the insured has accepted the insurance terms the insurer sent to them at their request provided that the insurance policy or certificate sent to the insured bears an enhanced digital signature. The insurance terms are deemed to have been accepted by the insured once the insurance premium or contribution is paid. An enhanced digital signature is defined by Law No. 63-FZ as a digital signature (whether or not qualified) having a higher level of security and allowing to identify a message sender. Sending such messages is likely to require the insured to create a personal online account (with a password and username being issued) on the insurer’s website.

What is excluded from the scope of the new e-procedure?

Digital signatures may not be used in certain situations, such as when:

  • it is necessary to assess the insured’s status or assets in person; or
  • an insurance broker renders any services related to the conclusion of an insurance contract in electronic form.

Comments

The Law is aimed at simplifying the interaction between insurers and insureds within the existing digital signature system in Russia. The amendments will therefore enable those participating in insurance relations to interact more promptly, which should positively affect the quality of services and expand the range of insurance consumers. In this respect, we recommend insurers amend insurance rules by introducing provisions on electronic interaction with the insureds or include relevant clauses into the standard insurance policy wordings.