Axa releases 300 million euros for the Covid claims of French restaurants
Insurance giant Axa said today it will pay € 300m to some 15,000 French restaurants who are fighting to have at least some of their losses from Covid lockdowns covered by their policies .
The deal comes as Axa has faced multiple lawsuits from restaurateurs claiming the insurer was trying to evade its contractual obligations, putting their livelihoods at risk.
Most of the lawsuits to date have been successful.
“I’m sorry for everything that happened, as we disagreed with the restaurants over a misunderstanding,” Thomas Buberl, Axa’s managing director, told Europe 1 radio, noting that some court decisions ‘appeal had been in favor of Axa.
“We are offering a settlement to a lot of people who haven’t asked for anything, even those who lost in court will be able to be part of it,” he said.
Restaurants in France were allowed to start serving customers indoors on Wednesday for the first time since October, as France emerges from a third coronavirus lockdown.
The French government has released billions of euros in aid to restaurants and other businesses forced to close in order to slow contagion rates.
But industry officials say thousands of restaurants face huge debt and the prospect of reduced income in the coming months as capacity levels remain capped for now.
Axa’s customers requested relief through their policies which covered “administrative closures” for a variety of reasons, including sanitary closures.
Axa refused, citing a clause stating that any shutdown was to apply only to the individual indoor restaurant, which excluded closures due to a general health emergency.
The company indicates that some 1,500 complaints have been filed, the first by Parisian restaurateur Stéphane Manigold, who obtained € 70,000 in May 2020 to cover the losses of his two-Michelin-starred Maison Rostang and three other restaurants.
“This response is not compensation, it is a transaction,” Buberl added.
“We want to support our restaurant clients during this reopening period, and it is important to put this difficulty behind us,” he said.