Insurance and reinsurance in Belgium: overview

A Q&A guide to insurance and reinsurance in Belgium.

The Q&A gives a high level overview of the market trends and regulatory framework in the insurance and reinsurance market; the regulation of insurance and reinsurance contracts; the corporate structure of insurers and reinsurers; and the regulation of insurers and reinsurers, including regulation of the transfer of risk. It also covers: operating restrictions for insurance and reinsurance entities, including authorisation/licensing requirements; reinsurance monitoring and disclosure requirements; content requirements for policies and implied terms; insurance and reinsurance claims; insolvency of insurance and reinsurance providers; taxation; dispute resolution; and proposals for reform. Finally, it provides websites and brief details for the main insurance/reinsurance trade organisations in Belgium.

To compare answers across multiple jurisdictions visit the Insurance and Reinsurance Country Q&A tool.

This Q&A is part of the PLC multi-jurisdictional guide to insurance and reinsurance. For a full list of jurisdictional Q&As visit www.practicallaw.com/insurance-mjg.

Hugo Keulers and Sandra Lodewijckx, Lydian
Contents

Market trends and regulatory framework

1. What have been the main trends in the insurance and reinsurance markets over the last 12 months?

The financial crisis has given rise to more transparency in the offering of insurance services. In the life insurance industry, for example, information sheets must be provided to customers before entering into an agreement with them. The life insurance industry is also preparing for the consequences of the EU Court of Justice (ECJ) case law on mandatory equalisation of premiums and benefits for women and men. As for non-life products, equal premiums and benefits were already mandatory before the ECJ decision, so the impact of the decision was less far-reaching.

The industry has further succeeded in adapting its institutional investment capacity to volatile stock-markets, while preparing for better risk-management under the Directive 2009/138/EC on the taking-up and pursuit of the business of insurance and reinsurance (Solvency II Directive). A regulatory level playing field is also being created between insurance companies, pension funds and mutualities.

The draft bill on Belgian class actions has still not been voted for in Parliament because of the Belgian political crisis. The new Belgian government announced they have put the subject high on the agenda.

There has been significant reform in the regulation of the insurance industry where a "twin peaks" system was installed, which integrated the prudential supervision of financial institutions into the central bank. The result is a system of split responsibilities between the Financial Services and Markets Authority (previously the Banking, Finance and Insurance Commission (CBFA)), which is now in charge of consumer protection and financial intermediaries, and the National Bank of Belgium, which is in charge of large-scale financial regulation and supervision.

The next reform of insurance regulation law in Belgium will be the transposition into Belgian law of the Solvency II Directive. The regulation of insurance companies will undergo substantial modifications as a result.

 
2. What is the regulatory framework for insurance/reinsurance activities?

Regulatory framework

Insurance contracts are regulated by the Statute on non-marine insurance contracts 25 June 1992 (Insurance Contract Act 1992). Several Royal Decrees regulate specific types of insurance contract (for example, fire insurance, motor vehicle insurance or family liability coverage).

Reinsurance contracts and some specific insurance contracts (for example, transport insurance) fall under the 11 June 1874 Insurance Act (Insurance Contract Act 1874).

Insurance companies are regulated by the Act on insurance undertakings 9 July 1975 (Insurance Supervision Act 1975) and by the Royal Decree on the general regulation of insurance companies 22 February 1991.

The Act on reinsurance 16 February 2009 (Reinsurance Act 2009) regulates reinsurance companies and transposes Directive 2005/68/EC on reinsurance (Reinsurance Directive) into Belgian law. A forthcoming Royal Decree will give specifics for the general rules contained in the Reinsurance Act 2009.

The Act on insurance and reinsurance intermediaries and distribution of insurance 27 March 1995 (Insurance Intermediaries Act 1995) regulates insurance and reinsurance intermediaries, and transposes Directive 2002/92/EC on insurance mediation into Belgian law.

Regulatory bodies

The Central Bank now has responsibility for the prudential supervision of financial institutions (see Question 1). Under the previous regime, the micro-prudential supervision of banks, insurance companies and other financial institutions was entrusted to the CBFA. In addition, the CBFA was also the Belgian market authority, while the National Bank of Belgium (NBB, the central bank) was in charge of the macro-prudential supervision of the Belgian financial system.

Under the new model, the NBB will be in charge of the micro-prudential supervision of Belgian credit institutions, stockbrokers and insurance companies. The Financial Services and Markets Authority (FSMA) will keep the responsibilities of the former CBFA not taken over by the NBB, such as the supervision of codes of conduct and consumer protection, and the supervision of brokers.

 

Regulation of insurance and reinsurance contracts

3. What is a contract of insurance for the purposes of the law and regulation? How does it differ from a contract of reinsurance?

Belgian insurance law defines the contract of insurance as "a contract according to which, in return for the payment of a fixed or variable premium, a party, the insurer, commits itself towards another party, the policyholder, to provide the benefit stipulated in the contract in case an uncertain event emerges that, depending on the circumstances, either the insured or the beneficiary does not wish to emerge" (Article 1A, Insurance Contract Act 1992). An insurance contract must have this element of uncertainty and, under case law, must be entered into with an insurance company.

Belgian law does not define what must be understood by "contract of reinsurance". Reinsurance is defined as the activity consisting in accepting risks ceded by an insurance company or by another reinsurance company (Article 4(1), Reinsurance Act 2009).

 
4. Are all contracts of insurance/reinsurance regulated?

The vast majority of insurance contracts fall under the scope of the Insurance Contract Act 1992 (see Question 3) and most of its provisions are mandatory.

Transport and reinsurance contracts are governed by the Insurance Contract Act 1874. Most of its provisions are discretionary.

Maritime insurance is regulated by the Act 21 August 1879 (Belgian Commercial Code).

 

Corporate structure

5. What form of corporate organisation can insurers take in your jurisdiction?

Insurance companies in Belgium are mostly (95%) established as a joint stock company (mostly public limited liability companies, but sometimes partnerships limited by shares).

Article 9 of the Insurance Supervision Act 1975 also allows:

  • Co-operative companies.

  • Mutual insurance societies (association of persons, rather than a company, established for the common bearing of certain risks to which the members are subject).

  • Societies of mutual assistance (association for the insurance of certain health risks that are also mutual companies offering services related to statutory sickness insurance).

Reinsurance companies can also take the form of a European company.

 

Regulation of insurers and reinsurers

6. Are all insurers and reinsurers regulated in your jurisdiction? Are they all regulated in the same way?

Reinsurers are subject to substantially the same regulation as insurers.

Belgian insurance and reinsurance companies must be licensed by the NBB (central bank) before exercising insurance or reinsurance activities in Belgium (Article 3, Insurance Supervision Act 1975 and Article 5, Reinsurance Act 2009).

European Economic Area (EEA) licensed insurance and reinsurance companies can exercise insurance/reinsurance activities in Belgium, either through a branch or through the freedom to provide services (European passport).

Non EEA-licensed insurance and reinsurance companies must be licensed by the NBB.

 
7. Can insurers or reinsurers carry on non-insurance business? Are there any restrictions on their business activities?

Belgian insurance companies cannot have corporate purpose other than:

  • Insurance operations.

  • Capitalisation operations.

  • Pension funds management.

The corporate purpose of Belgian reinsurance companies must exclusively be dedicated to reinsurance activities, being either:

  • Accepting risks ceded by an insurance company or by another reinsurance company (retrocession).

  • For an insurance or reinsurance company that is not a Lloyd's member, accepting risks ceded by a Lloyd's member (Article 4(1), Reinsurance Act 2009).

 
8. Are there any statutory limits or other restrictions on, or requirements relating to, the transfer of risk by insurance or reinsurance companies?

The transfer of a Belgian insurer's insurance portfolio is subject to prior NBB authorisation and can only be made to other licensed EEA insurers. Transfer of Belgian reinsurers' reinsurance risks is also always subject to the NBB's prior consent.

 

Operating restrictions

Authorisation or licensing

9. Does the entity or person have to be authorised or licensed in your jurisdiction?

Insurance/reinsurance providers

Insurance/reinsurance-related activities can only be performed by licensed insurance/reinsurance companies or by licensed insurance/reinsurance intermediaries.

Insurance and reinsurance companies must obtain a licence from the NBB for the insurance classes in which they will be active. For the requirements, see Question 13.

Belgian reinsurance companies that were active before 10 December 2005 do not need a licence.

Insurance/reinsurance intermediaries

Insurance and reinsurance intermediaries must be licensed by the FSMA before exercising insurance or reinsurance intermediation in Belgium (Article 5, Insurance Intermediaries Act 1995). Insurance and reinsurance intermediaries licensed by the regulatory body of another EEA country can exercise insurance/reinsurance intermediation in Belgium either through a branch or through the freedom to provide services (European passport). Insurance and reinsurance intermediaries from non-EEA countries must be licensed by the FSMA.

Intermediaries who only provide general information and who do not interfere with the practical execution of the insurance policy or with claims handling (clients' contributors (apporteurs d'affaires)) do not require licensing provided they comply with the restrictions on their activities imposed by the FSMA. The clients' contributors are only permitted to work as "postmen" between clients/customers and insurance intermediaries or insurers, that is, for example:

  • Forwarding the identity of potential clients.

  • Giving documentation on specific insurance products (containing only general and non-personalised information).

  • Refraining from technically helping clients to fill in forms or from evaluating the clients' needs and appropriate coverage.

In general, these clients' contributors must avoid being involved in the execution of the insurance contracts. They have no power of representation and are not allowed to collect any insurance premiums.

Other providers of insurance/reinsurance-related activities

Not applicable (see above, Insurance/reinsurance providers).

 
10. What are the main exemptions or exclusions from authorisation or licensing that are available?

Insurance/reinsurance providers

There are no other exemptions from the licensing requirements for insurance/reinsurance providers (see Question 9, Insurance/reinsurance providers).

Insurance/reinsurance intermediaries

See Question 9, Insurance/reinsurance intermediaries.

Other providers of insurance/reinsurance-related activities

Not applicable (see Question 9, Insurance/reinsurance providers).

Restrictions on ownership or control

11. Are there any restrictions on the ownership or control of insurance-related entities?

Insurance/reinsurance providers

There are no requirements as to the age or nationality of directors of insurance/reinsurance companies.

The persons in charge of the effective management, the managers and the general proxyholders of insurance companies must have the professional standing and the appropriate experience to exercise their function (Article 90bis, Insurance Supervision Act 1975). Previous convictions for criminal financial offences disqualify an individual from being an insurance company manager.

Insurance companies must inform the NBB when nominating or renewing their management's mandate. The NBB then gives its opinion on the nomination or on the renewal.

Similar requirements apply for a change of control of a reinsurance company (Article 17 §1, Reinsurance Act 2009).

Insurance/reinsurance intermediaries

Insurance intermediaries must prove that they have sufficient professional knowledge and ability to obtain a licence from the FSMA to act as an insurance broker, an insurance agent or an insurance sub-agent.

Other providers of insurance/reinsurance-related activities

Not applicable (see Question 9, Insurance/reinsurance providers).

 
12. Must owners or controllers be pre-approved by or notified to the relevant authorities before taking, increasing or reducing their control or ownership of the entity?

Insurance/reinsurance providers

A person must notify the NBB in advance of either:

  • Directly or indirectly acquiring, or disposing of, at least 10% shareholding in a Belgian insurance company.

  • Increasing or decreasing a holding of the voting rights of a Belgian insurance company over the thresholds of 20%, 33% or 50%.

The NBB can oppose the transaction within three months from the date of the notification if it believes that the acquirer does not guarantee prudent management.

Insurance companies must notify the NBB of these acquisitions or disposals as soon as they become aware. In addition, they must inform the NBB at least once a year of the identity of shareholders with a qualified participation in the shares of the company (Article 23bis, Insurance Supervision Act 1975).

Similar requirements apply in the case of change of control of a reinsurance company (Article 24, Reinsurance Act 2009).

Directors or officers of the acquirer are not subject to any particular regulatory background investigation.

Insurance/reinsurance intermediaries

There are no restrictions on the change of control of insurance intermediaries.

Other providers of insurance/reinsurance-related activities

Not applicable (see Question 9, Insurance/reinsurance providers).

Ongoing requirements for the authorised or licensed entity

13. What are the key ongoing requirements with which the authorised or licensed entity must comply?

Insurance/reinsurance providers

Belgian insurance and reinsurance companies must have a sufficient solvency margin and reserves, and certain technical provisions (Articles 10 and following, Royal Decree 22 February 1991 and Articles 20 and following, Reinsurance Act 2009). They have regular reporting obligations.

EEA-licensed insurance companies active in Belgium need not comply with these obligations (Article 22, Royal Decree 22 February 1991) (see Question 9).

Non EEA-licensed insurance companies active in Belgium must locate in Belgium at least a third of the assets corresponding to the solvency margin and must deposit, by way of security bond, 25% of the absolute minimum of the guarantee fund (Article 27, Royal Decree 22 February 1991).

Reinsurance companies from other countries must comply with the financial obligations under the Reinsurance Act 2009.

Insurance/reinsurance intermediaries

Insurance and reinsurance intermediaries must comply with the following ongoing requirements (Articles 10 and 10bis, Insurance Intermediaries Act 1995):

  • Obtaining professional indemnity insurance.

  • Abstaining from marketing or concluding insurance contracts against Belgian law.

  • Only do business with authorised (re)insurance companies.

  • Payment of an annual registration fee.

  • If the (re)insurance intermediary is a company, periodically giving the FSMA a list of the persons responsible for the company management and of the persons in contact with the public, as well as notifying any change in these lists (Article 11bis, Insurance Intermediaries Act 1995). In addition, they must:

    • state that the managers have sufficient professional knowledge and adequate experience;

    • inform the FSMA of the identity of the persons controlling the (re)insurance intermediary, and of any change of control.

Other providers of insurance/reinsurance-related activities

Not applicable (see Question 9, Insurance/reinsurance providers).

Penalties for non-compliance with legal and regulatory requirements

14. What are the possible consequences of an entity failing to comply with applicable legal and regulatory requirements? What recourse do policyholders have if they have done business with a non-approved entity?

Insurance/reinsurance providers

The NBB has disciplinary powers for breaches of the regulatory requirements. It first addresses an injunction to the (re)insurance company and if, after a certain period, the (re)insurance company still does not comply, the NBB has powers to appoint a special representative. The special representative then has powers to (Article 26, §4, Insurance Supervision Act 1975 and Article 47, §1 Reinsurance Act 2009):

  • Approve all decisions of the (re)insurance company.

  • Limit all or part of the activities of the (re)insurance company.

  • Transfer all or part of the (re)insurance portfolio.

  • Replace directors or managers.

Insurance contracts entered into with a non-approved insurance company are declared null and void (Article 3, § 3, Insurance Supervision Act 1975). If the policyholder did not know that the company was not licensed, and contracted with it in good faith, the company is liable to the policyholder for all its obligations resulting from the insurance contract.

Insurance/reinsurance intermediaries

The FSMA also has disciplinary powers relating to insurance and reinsurance intermediaries. The FSMA can either suspend or strike-off their licence.

Insurance companies can only do business with licensed insurance intermediaries. If they do not, the insurance company is civilly liable to the policyholders for all actions of the insurance intermediary (Article 5, §2, Insurance Intermediaries Act 1995).

Other providers of insurance/reinsurance-related activities

Not applicable (see Question 9, Insurance/reinsurance providers).

Restrictions on persons to whom services can be marketed or sold

15. Are there any restrictions on the persons to whom insurance/reinsurance services and contracts can be marketed or sold?

There are no restrictions on the persons to whom insurance/reinsurance contracts can be marketed or sold.

 

Reinsurance monitoring and disclosure requirements

16. To what extent can/must a reinsurance company monitor the claims, settlements and underwriting of the cedant company?

There are no statutory or regulatory requirements that allow or oblige reinsurers to follow their cedant's underwriting fortunes and claims payments or settlements, in the absence of a contractual provision to that effect. There are no court or arbitration decisions on this issue.

 
17. What disclosure/notification obligations does the cedant company have to the reinsurance company?

Most reinsurance agreements impose on the cedant notification and information obligations to the reinsurer for underlying claims. If there is no written agreement or no contractual provision, the cedant must notify and inform the reinsurer immediately after loss or damage has emerged. If the cedant does not fulfil this obligation, the reinsurer can claim damages but cannot refuse coverage on this basis (Article 17, Insurance Act 1874).

 

Insurance and reinsurance policies

Content requirements and commonly found clauses

18. What are the main general form and content requirements for insurance policies? What are the most commonly found clauses?

Form and content requirements

Insurance contracts must be made in writing (Article 10 §1, Insurance Contract Act 1992).

An insurance policy must contain the (Article 10 §2, Insurance Contract Act 1992):

  • Date on which the insurance contract is signed and the date of its entry into force.

  • Insurance period.

  • Identity of the policyholder or, as the case may be, of the insured and the beneficiary.

  • Name and address of the insurer or the co-insurers.

  • Name and address of the insurance intermediary, if any.

  • Covered risks.

  • Premium amount.

Commonly found clauses

Exclusion clauses and forfeiture clauses are typical in Belgian insurance contracts, but it is very difficult for insurers to rely on fraud, wilful misconduct or gross negligence. Time limitation clauses are also common.

 
19. Is facultative or treaty reinsurance more common? What are the most commonly found clauses in reinsurance policies?

Facultative/treaty reinsurance

Treaty reinsurance is more common in Belgium.

Commonly found clauses

In the vast majority of cases, reinsurance contracts are drafted according to Anglo-Saxon wording. Many reinsurance contracts contain the following traditional clauses, with the same meaning as in Anglo-Saxon reinsurance:

  • As original.

  • Follow the fortune.

  • Follow the form.

However, there is deviating case law on the interpretation of an "as original" clause. The Brussels Commercial Court decided that according to the clause "Belgian law to apply, as original" in a reinsurance treaty, Belgian law must be applied to both the insurance contract and the reinsurance treaty.

Implied terms

20. Are there any terms that are implied by law or regulation (even if not included in the insurance or reinsurance contract)?

The Insurance Contract Act 1992 provides general clauses to be included in insurance policies. Several Royal Decrees also provide particular clauses to be included in some insurance policies (for example, motor vehicle insurance policies and life insurance policies). The statutory provisions apply in the absence of contractual provisions.

Parties to an insurance or reinsurance contract must perform their obligations and exercise their contractual rights in good faith (Article 1134, Belgian Civil Code), although there is no case law on the application of this principle to insurance or reinsurance agreements.

Customer protections

21. What customer protections are generally included in insurance policies to supplement relief available under general law?

The Insurance Contract Act 1992 has many customer protection provisions (for example, imposing a delay allowing the customer to withdraw from the insurance contract).

The Act on fair market practices of 6 April 2010 also applies to insurance contracts entered into with consumers and provides additional protection.

Standard policies or terms

22. What are the main standard policies or terms produced by trade associations or relevant authorities?

Motor vehicle insurance is the only insurance contract that is standardised by law. Insurers can only set up exceptions in favour of the policyholder, the insured or third parties.

Commonly, the general conditions of customer insurance contracts (for example, fire insurance and family liability coverage, known as "mass risks") are all quite similar. Insurance contracts for companies (known as "large risks") can vary more according to the specific needs of each company, and depending on whether the insurance policy was drafted by the broker or by the insurer. For large risks, it is common for insurance brokers to propose their own general conditions to the insurer and to the insured. Most Belgian insurers will accept such brokers' wording.

In addition, the Belgian insurers' association (Assuralia) has developed general conditions for industrial fire insurance policies (see box, Main insurance/reinsurance trade organisations).

 

Insurance and reinsurance policy claims

Establishing an insurance claim

23. What must be established to trigger a claim under an insurance policy?

Generally, the notice of loss to insured property to an insurer will trigger a claim under a property insurance policy.

Liability insurers must defend a claim (and take the lead in the defence of a claim) when the insured can effectively rely on coverage under the policy (Article 79, Statute on non-marine insurance contracts 1992).

Third party insurance claims

24. What are the circumstances in which third parties can claim under an insurance policy?

For insurance contracts falling under the Insurance Contract Law 1992 (see Question 3), third parties have a direct legal action against the liability insurer of the party who caused the damage or loss (Article 86, Insurance Contract Act 1992). This right does not exist for insurance policies that do not fall under the scope of the Insurance Contract Act 1992. Beneficiaries under a life insurance policy can also claim indemnity from the life insurer.

Time limits

25. Is there a time limit outside of which the insured/reinsured is barred from making a claim?

For insurance contracts that fall under the Insurance Contract Act 1992 (see Question 3), the statute of limitations is three years. The statute of limitations begins to run as from the day of the event that opens the right to claim. However, if the person who has the right to claim is only aware of the event at a later date, the period starts to run as from the day of discovery (up to five years from the date of the event, except in cases of fraud).

In life insurance, the limitation period for the beneficiary's action starts to run from the time the beneficiary is aware of all of the following:

  • The existence of the insurance contract.

  • The fact that he is a beneficiary of it.

  • The event (the death of the insured) giving rise to the right to claim.

The limitation period for actions on the reserve against the insurer is 30 years.

In liability insurance, the limitation period for a recourse action of the insured towards the insurer starts to run as from the date of the victim's judicial claim. There is also a separate limitation period of five years from the event for a direct action by the victim against the liability insurer.

A counterclaim by the insurer against its insured is time-barred after three years from the payment from the insurer.

The limitation period for reinsurance claims is three years.

Enforcement

26. Can the original policyholder or other third party enforce the reinsurance contract against a reinsurer?

The original policyholders or third parties do not have any right to enforce the insurance contract against a reinsurer. This would require the cedant insurer to give them its rights under the reinsurance contract and this almost never happens in practice.

Remedies

27. What remedies are available for breach of an insurance policy?

The Insurance Contract Act 1992 imposes specific sanctions for breaches of an insurance policy by the policyholder.

Depending on the breach, these sanctions can include:

  • Nullifying the insurance contract.

  • Suspending the insurance policy.

  • Giving the insurer the right to refuse coverage for a particular claim.

Punitive damage claims

28. Are punitive damages insurable in your jurisdiction? Can punitive damages be reinsured if they are covered by an underlying policy?

Punitive damages are a form of private penalty, which goes against Belgian public policy and can therefore not be enforced. Damages must fully, but only, repair the harm caused.

However, no case law is available that states that foreign judgments awarding punitive damages would as such be contrary to international public policy and could not be enforced. This would imply that punitive damages would in principle be insured. Insurance companies would in any event be free to exclude punitive damages by an exclusion clause.

In practice, punitive damages are mainly a risk in US litigation and most of the Belgian liability insurance policies exclude any lawsuits in the US or Canada from coverage. If coverage is provided in these jurisdictions, punitive damages are always expressly excluded from coverage. When no such exclusion clause exists, an insurance company could still try to rely on a wilful misconduct defence.

 

Insolvency of insurance and reinsurance providers

29. What is the regulatory framework for dealing with distressed or insolvent insurance or reinsurance companies, or other persons or entities providing insurance or reinsurance related services? What regulatory and/or other protections exist for policyholders if the insurance company is insolvent?

The NBB can order that distressed insurance companies' interests be merged with or absorbed by another insurance company (Article 27, Insurance Supervision Act 1975).

If a Commercial Court opens insolvency proceedings against a Belgian insurance company, it must inform the NBB of this either before taking a decision, or as soon as possible afterwards. The NBB then immediately informs all EEA member state regulatory authorities. The judgment is also published in the Official Journal of the European Union. There can also be liquidation procedures that are not based on insolvency (Articles 45 and following, Insurance Supervision Act 1975).

The Reinsurance Act 2009 and Insurance Intermediaries Act 1995 do not give similar specific provisions for reinsurance companies and insurance intermediaries, and the general bankruptcy laws therefore apply.

 
30. Can excess coverage "drop down" to provide coverage at levels concerning which the existing coverage is insolvent?

There is no statutory provision or case law on excess coverage. Mostly, excess insurers will have a deductible in their policy equal to the amount insured by the primary insurer. Often, an excess insurance policy has a cross-reference to the primary policies (by mentioning the name of the primary insurer, the policy number of the primary policy and the insured amount of the primary policy). Such clauses are valid and enforceable against the policyholder, the insured or any other beneficiary or claimant.

 
31. Is a right to set-off mutual debts and credits recognised in an insolvency proceeding involving an insurer or reinsurer?

It is possible to set-off mutual debts and credits in an insolvency proceeding but only to the extent that the debts and credits to be set-off are closely interrelated.

 

Taxation of insurance and reinsurance providers

32. What is the tax treatment for insurers, reinsurers, and other persons or entities providing insurance and reinsurance-related services?

Insurance products are not subject to VAT.

The tax treatment of insurers, reinsurers and other (re)insurance service providers (when the latter act under the form of a company) depend on the legal form of the company and are treated in the same way as other similar commercial companies.

 

Insurance and reinsurance dispute resolution

33. Are there special procedures or venues for dealing with insurance or reinsurance complaints or disputes?

There are no special procedures for insurance related disputes. Insurance and reinsurance disputes can be brought before a Belgian court. The court of the domicile of the policyholder in principle has jurisdiction (Article 628, 10°, Belgian Judicial Code).

Insurance and reinsurance disputes can also be submitted to mediation or to arbitration. Mediation is not frequently applied.

Policyholders can also file a complaint with the Insurance Ombudsman.

 
34. Are arbitration clauses in insurance and reinsurance agreements enforceable?

Parties cannot in principle agree an arbitration clause or to submit insurance disputes to arbitration before the dispute has arisen (Insurance Contract Act 1992). It is only when the dispute has arisen that parties can validly agree to submit the dispute towards arbitrators.

Arbitration clauses still remain valid in agreements:

  • Falling under the Insurance Contract Act of 1874, including reinsurance and transport insurance.

  • Property and fire insurance (except for "simple risks").

  • Liability insurance (except for car insurance).

  • Building risk insurance.

  • Additional workers compensation insurance.

 
35. Are choice of forum, venue and applicable law clauses in an insurance or reinsurance contract recognised and enforced in your jurisdiction?

Choice of forum, venue and applicable law clauses are recognised and enforceable under Belgian law. For risks situated in Belgium, parties' choice of applicable law will in some cases be limited to Belgian law or the law of the country where parties are established. When Belgian law applies, in addition, the choice of forum will in disputes over insurance contracts, be limited to the place of residence of the policyholder (except for marine insurance and work accident insurance), although the law does not prohibit choice of forum clauses that designate another forum and which are agreed after the emergence of the dispute.

 

Reform

36. What proposals are there for reform of the law, regulation or rules in your jurisdiction relating to the provision of insurance or reinsurance services?

The next reform of insurance law in Belgium will be the transposition into Belgian law of the Solvency II Directive. The regulation of insurance companies will undergo substantial modifications as a result. The Insurance Supervision Act 1975 and the Royal Decree on the general regulation of insurance companies 1991 are likely to be substantially reformed.

 

Main insurance/reinsurance trade organisations

Assuralia

Main activities. Represents, protects and co-ordinates most Belgian insurers (foreign insurers active in Belgium are not represented by Assuralia) in relation to the authorities and the public. It is also involved in study, information and training activities.

W www.assuralia.be

Belgian Royal Association of Maritime Insurers (Royale Association Belge des Assureurs Maritimes, Koninklijke Belgische Vereniging van Transportverzekeraars) (ABAM)

Main activities. Promotes co-operation between members, represents them at national and international level and is involved in training activities.

W www.abambvt.be

Belgian Federation of Insurance Brokers and Financial Intermediaries (Fédération des Courtiers d'assurances et d'Intermédiaires financiers de Belgique) (Feprabel)

Main activities. Represents and defends the interests of insurance brokers and financial intermediaries.

W www.feprabel.be

Federation of Insurance and Financial Intermediaries (Federatie voor Verzekerings- en Financiële tussenpersonen) (FVF)

Main activities. Represents and defends the interests of insurance and financial intermediaries.

W www.fvf.be

Professional Trade Association of Insurance Brokers (Union Professionnelle des Courtiers d'Assurance, Beroepsvereniging van Verzekeringsmakelaars) (UPCA-BVVM)

Main activities. Represents and defends the interests of insurance brokers.

W www.upca.be

Professional Association and Organisation of Risk and Insurance Managers (Belrim) 

Main activities. Represents and defends the interests of risk and insurance managers.

W www.belrim.be


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