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Axa faces coverage ambiguity in 1,700 restaurant contracts

Axa Chief Executive Thomas Buberl

(Reuters) French insurer Axa has identified 1,700 contracts signed with restaurant owners in France where the terms are not clear as to whether business interruption losses due to the COVID-19 crisis should be covered, its CEO told Le Monde in an interview.

The company suffered a setback last month when a Paris court ruled that it should pay a restaurant owner two months of revenue losses caused by the virus pandemic and ensuing lockdowns.

Axa had argued its policy did not cover business disruption caused by the health crisis, though it has also said it would try to find an amicable solution for problematic contracts and offer compensation.

“We have 20,000 contracts with restaurants, the vast majority of which do not cover operating losses in the event of pandemic,” Axa Chief Executive Thomas Buberl told French newspaper Le Monde.

“There is some debate only for 1,700 of them because they are not clear. From the start, I've asked our teams to focus on these contracts, and we started talks with the restaurants concerned.”

Mr. Buberl said his company had reached an agreement with 200 restaurants and that the payouts would allow them to cover a substantial part of their costs.

The court case set a potential precedent for coronavirus-related disputes across the world.

More insurance and risk management news on the coronavirus crisis here.