The regulator specifies that ‘Tif must not carry on any insurance distribution activities in relation to any new policies for any customer resident in the UK’ with regards to the firm’s past insurer partnerships
The FCA has instructed travel insurance provider Tifgroup to cease its services pertaining to claims and complaints handling, as well as new insurance distribution activity in the UK, for previous partners Union Reiseversicherung AG (URV) and White Horse Insurance Ireland dac, effective from 7 December 2021.
Information published on the regulator’s Financial Services Register declares Tifgroup, one of the 79 trading names of Travel Insurance Facilities, should not conduct services “for, or on behalf of, an insurer in relation to claims handling” or “enter into any agreement with any insurance undertaking or insurance intermediary to provide any outsourced services relating to claims handling and complaints handling”.
The full requirement on the FCA ’s Financial Services Register website reads:
“For the avoidance of doubt, Tif must not carry on any insurance distribution activities in relation to any new Union Reiseversicherung AG (URV) or White Horse Insurance Ireland dac policies for any customer resident in the UK.
”1. Unless permitted by 2, Tif (itself and/or through any agent, including any appointed representative of Tif) must not, without prior written consent of the FCA:
”a. Carry on any services (whether regulated activities or otherwise) for, or on behalf of, an insurer in relation to claims handling; or,
”b. Enter into any agreement with any insurance undertaking or insurance intermediary, whether domiciled in the UK or overseas, to provide any outsourced services relating to claims handling (including in relation to emergency medical assistance cases) and complaints handling on behalf of any such insurance undertaking or insurance intermediary.”
The FCA further requires the firm to “secure all books and records and preserve all information and systems” around its regulated activities, as well as the claims and complaints it has handled.
Tifgroup partnered with insurer Collinson in December 2021, which underwrites Tifgroup’s direct brands such as Holidaysafe and Insurancewith.
Explaining ‘different’ model
A spokesperson from Tifgroup told Insurance Times: “Along with many others in the travel sector, Tifgroup has been significantly impacted by the pandemic. We have also had the additional challenges of the decision of our previous insurance partner, URV, exiting from the UK market.
“We adopt a different model of claims handling than that which is regarded as traditional in the industry. We have therefore engaged with the supervision team at the FCA to explain our assistance model and its rationale, which has at its heart the protection of consumers and challenging the unethical practices which we have witnessed in some overseas medical facilities.
“We have considered it sensible to pause the provision of new claims and assistance services while we embed into the relationship with our new insurance partner, [which] will be handling all claims and assistance services on our behalf.
”These changes do not affect our claims and assistance activities in relation to existing policies insured by URV and existing policyholders will continue benefit from our claims and complaints handling aspects of their policies for the remainder of their term.
”Going forwards, we will continue to act as the distributor and point of sale for our direct travel insurance brands.”
Ceasing UK operations
The regulator added that Tifgroup “may undertake all necessary activities in relation to policies effected by the UK branch of URV prior to 8 July 2021, arranged by the firm where there are policyholders resident in the UK”.
Tifgroup originally partnered with URV in 2003 - it administered claims handling and other related services for the German insurer, which was able to initially operate in this country thanks to the UK’s temporary permissions regime for European Economic Area-based firms that previously passported into the UK.
On 7 July 2021, the FCA halted URV’s ability to conduct regulated activities or undertake marketing activity regarding travel insurance in the UK.
Tifgroup has brands such as HolidaySafe, Alpha, Flexicover and Insurancewith.