Holiday Extras Travel Insurance: is a landslide a catastrophe that justifies non-payment?

My husband booked us on a train back from Italy and we were planning to travel via Paris and spend a night in a hotel and then back to London via Eurostar. We were trying to not to fly to be eco friendly.

There was a land slide in Savoy and our train was cancelled. After contacting the Insurance company (Holiday Extras) we had to change our travel plans and took a train to Milan and then flew to London. This cost over £600 plus.

After months of email exchanges we were told we were not entitled to payment because a landslide was classed as a 'catastrophe'.

I am a newbie so not entitled to use links yet. But in italics below is an indication on the debate we have been having with Holiday Extras about what constitutes a catastrophe.

Any helpful thoughts gladly received...
Thanks



See below for my husband's on the basis that ‘catastrophe’ events are excluded from the claim, and that your definition of ‘catastrophe’ includes ‘landslide’.

We believe that this is mistaken, for two reasons:

  1. It is clear from the other items listed in this section of the policy (“avalanche, earthquake, explosion, fire, flood, hurricane, landslide, tornado, tsunami, volcanic activity or outbreak of infectious disease (unless declared an epidemic or pandemic by the World Health Organisation)”) that it is intended to apply to the direct effects of such an issue. The direct cause was the cancellation of a train service by the operator. 

  2. The landslide that blocked the Milan-Paris train line is not a ‘catastrophe’ by any usual insurance industry definition of the term. It is not of sufficient scale. 

The reputable financial guide, Investopedia, defines ‘catastrophe’ in the insurance industry as follows:

In the insurance industry, a catastrophe hazard is a type of risk that could cause a large number of policyholders to file claims at the same time. Common examples of catastrophe hazards include earthquakes, tornadoes, or acts of terrorism. 

Moody’s, the risk management services group, defines catastrophes as:

“perils ranging from earthquakes and hurricanes to floods and wildfires.”

The American Academy of Actuaries defines catastrophes as infrequent events that cause severe loss, injury or property damage to a large population of exposures.

In Europe, Swiss Re’s database of catastrophe losses has the following minimum criteria for inclusion:

a given annual inflation-adjusted economic loss (2010:US$ 86.5 million) and/or 20 fatalities/people reported missing, and/or 50 people injured and/or 2,000 homeless are reached or exceeded.

A presentation to the Insurance and Reinsurance Stakeholder Group of the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA) specifically addressed how to define ‘catastrophe’ for the insurance industry. They drew on a number of internationally accepted definitions of catastrophe. These included the United Nations, as follows:

A serious disruption of the functioning of society, causing widespread human, material or environmental losses which exceed the ability of affected society to cope using only its own resources.

There are others, all of which convey a similar scale of impact.

In the UK Lloyds of London applies catastrophe codes to events that it considers to be catastrophes. It has assigned 11 catastrophe codes in 2023. The landslide that blocked the Milan-Paris rail line in August 2023 is not listed among these.



Comments

  • eskbanker
    eskbanker Posts: 29,969
    First Anniversary Name Dropper Photogenic First Post
    Forumite
    Not sure you have a leg to stand on to be honest - other bodies' definitions of 'catastrophe' aren't relevant if the definition applying to your policy explicitly includes landslides.

    I don't really follow the point you're trying to make with "The direct cause was the cancellation of a train service by the operator", if the direct cause of the cancellation was the landslide?
  • silvercar
    silvercar Posts: 46,778
    Academoney Grad Name Dropper Photogenic First Anniversary
    Ambassador
    Ask for a letter of deadlock, or wait 8 weeks, then go to the ombudsman.
    I'm a Forum Ambassador on The Coronavirus Boards as well as the housing, mortgages and student money saving boards. I volunteer to help get your forum questions answered and keep the forum running smoothly. Forum Ambassadors are not moderators and don't read every post. If you spot an illegal or inappropriate post then please report it to [email protected] (it's not part of my role to deal with this). Any views are mine and not the official line of MoneySavingExpert.com.
  • eDicky
    eDicky Posts: 6,527
    First Anniversary Name Dropper First Post
    Forumite
    eskbanker said:
    I don't really follow the point you're trying to make with "The direct cause was the cancellation of a train service by the operator", if the direct cause of the cancellation was the landslide?

    I understood it to mean that the direct cause of the insured party's loss or extra expense is the cancellation of train services. The cause of that cancellation is secondary, being the landslide. I'm in no way any kind of insurance expert, nor have any experience, but perhaps there was no need to complicate matters by even mentioning the landslide in the first instance of claiming? Not all passengers might have been aware of the landslide, just that they were stuck because trains were cancelled.
    Evolution, not revolution
  • eskbanker
    eskbanker Posts: 29,969
    First Anniversary Name Dropper Photogenic First Post
    Forumite
    eDicky said:
    eskbanker said:
    I don't really follow the point you're trying to make with "The direct cause was the cancellation of a train service by the operator", if the direct cause of the cancellation was the landslide?
    I understood it to mean that the direct cause of the insured party's loss or extra expense is the cancellation of train services. The cause of that cancellation is secondary, being the landslide. I'm in no way any kind of insurance expert, nor have any experience, but perhaps there was no need to complicate matters by even mentioning the landslide in the first instance of claiming? Not all passengers might have been aware of the landslide, just that they were stuck because trains were cancelled.
    But the policy section under which OP seeks to claim is presumably a travel disruption one, rather than one relating to actually being caught up directly in a landslide, so if there's a clause in that section excepting disruption caused by landslides then any attempt to differentiate between 'direct' and 'indirect' is irrelevant....
  • Hoenir
    Hoenir Posts: 1,298
    First Post Name Dropper
    Forumite
    eDicky said:
    eskbanker said:
    I don't really follow the point you're trying to make with "The direct cause was the cancellation of a train service by the operator", if the direct cause of the cancellation was the landslide?

     Not all passengers might have been aware of the landslide, just that they were stuck because trains were cancelled.
    There are other train routes between Milan and Paris other than through the Alps. Though not direct and will add a couple of hours to the travel time. 
  • DullGreyGuy
    DullGreyGuy Posts: 9,202
    First Anniversary First Post Name Dropper
    Forumite
    Do you have a link to the policy wording?

    It's important to know if they are relying on a defined term in the policy book or plain English. 

    Catastrophe will vary significantly between insurers... take a small Home insurance specialist, a flood of a river like the Severn could easily be considered a cat event for them. For Lloyds of London market place which deal with circa £50bn of premiums each year and can write individual policies with billion pound limits a couple of million of losses from residential insurance isn't likely to even be considered a major event.
  • eskbanker
    eskbanker Posts: 29,969
    First Anniversary Name Dropper Photogenic First Post
    Forumite
    Do you have a link to the policy wording?

    It's important to know if they are relying on a defined term in the policy book or plain English.
    OP appeared to be quoting the insurer's definition of 'catastrophe' (but apparently wanted to use that defined by others):

    ...your definition of ‘catastrophe’ includes ‘landslide’...

    [...]

    ...the other items listed in this section of the policy (“avalanche, earthquake, explosion, fire, flood, hurricane, landslide, tornado, tsunami, volcanic activity or outbreak of infectious disease (unless declared an epidemic or pandemic by the World Health Organisation)”)...

  • DullGreyGuy
    DullGreyGuy Posts: 9,202
    First Anniversary First Post Name Dropper
    Forumite
    eskbanker said:
    Do you have a link to the policy wording?

    It's important to know if they are relying on a defined term in the policy book or plain English.
    OP appeared to be quoting the insurer's definition of 'catastrophe' (but apparently wanted to use that defined by others):

    ...your definition of ‘catastrophe’ includes ‘landslide’...

    [...]

    ...the other items listed in this section of the policy (“avalanche, earthquake, explosion, fire, flood, hurricane, landslide, tornado, tsunami, volcanic activity or outbreak of infectious disease (unless declared an epidemic or pandemic by the World Health Organisation)”)...

    Was hoping for more than just a single definition :)
  • Catastrophe
    avalanche, earthquake, explosion, fire, flood, hurricane, landslide, tornado, tsunami, volcanic
    activity or outbreak of infectious disease (unless declared an epidemic or pandemic by the World
    Health Organisation).
    Taken from 90 pages of policy words with special meanings


Meet your Ambassadors

Categories

  • All Categories
  • 341.9K Banking & Borrowing
  • 249.7K Reduce Debt & Boost Income
  • 449.2K Spending & Discounts
  • 234K Work, Benefits & Business
  • 606.2K Mortgages, Homes & Bills
  • 172.5K Life & Family
  • 246.9K Travel & Transport
  • 1.5M Hobbies & Leisure
  • 15.8K Discuss & Feedback
  • 15.1K Coronavirus Support Boards