By Huw Jones and Carolyn Cohn
LONDON (Reuters) - Insurers including Hiscox, RSA and QBE will take part in a UK test case to decide whether their policies should pay out millions of pounds to companies hit by the coronavirus pandemic, the industry regulator said on Monday.
A national lockdown has triggered insurance claims from companies in Britain seeking compensation for having to shut down their activities as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said last month it would seek clarity from the courts on whether the wording of some insurance policies should provide cover during the pandemic.
The FCA said on Monday it has selected 17 examples from business interruption (BI) insurance policies used by 16 insurers, eight of whom were asked to take part in the court case.
"We expect the test case to provide guidance for the interpretation of many other business insurance policies that are not in the representative sample," the FCA said.
The eight insurers asked to take part in the court case were Lloyd's of London [SOLYD.UL] insurers Hiscox, Arch, Argenta and MS Amlin, as well as RSA, QBE, Zurich and Ecclesiastical, the FCA said in a statement.
The insurers have entered into a framework agreement with the regulator governing the process and timetable, it added.
Hiscox said it has agreed to assist in the test case to provide certainty for businesses and brokers on the application of policies as quickly as possible.
RSA said it expected its reinsurance programme to provide the bulk of cover for potential claims.
Arch, Argenta, Ecclesiastical, MS Amlin and Zurich said they supported the FCA's aim to seek clarity, with Zurich adding it had received "limited" numbers of BI claims. QBE did not immediately respond to request for comment.
The Hiscox Action Group of policyholders said it would continue with its own plan for legal action against Hiscox, which it said could bring about a resolution quicker than the FCA case.
The FCA said it expects the High Court case will be heard in the second half of July and last 5-10 days.
"In early July, we expect to publish a comprehensive list of other insurers and many other BI policies in the market that we expect the test case to affect, based on firm submissions," it said.
The court could decide that a number of policies respond to the pandemic and others do not, it said.
Insurers could meanwhile continue with any plans for voluntary settlement of cases, the FCA said.
The FCA also asked all insurers to check their policy wordings against those it intends to test to see if theirs will be impacted by the outcome of the case.
The watchdog also set out what the FCA expects of all insurers handling BI claims, saying that in most cases, insurers are not obliged to pay out in relation to the pandemic.
(Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by Rachel Armstrong and Alexander Smith and Susan Fenton)