Having been largely silent for a year about how to tackle the Vnuk problem (i.e. the extended scope of compulsory motor insurance to any normal use, anywhere, of any motor vehicle) the European Commission appears to have picked up the pace significantly in just announcing a new four-week consultation period running from 24 July to 21 August.
The Government’s preferred approach here is described as “the amended Directive option”. It is probably more pragmatic than the alternative “comprehensive option”, which could give rise to significant complications and unintended consequences for insurers and users of a wide range of motorised vehicles.
A big problem, however, is that we don’t know either what the amendment to the Directive might look like or what might be the timeframe for change – there has been nothing visible from the Commission since the change of the lead Commissioner necessitated by Lord Hill’s resignation after the UK’s EU referendum in June. To this extent, the DfT’s consultation may be in the unenviable position of aiming at a moving target – or even an unknown one.
Nevertheless, it remains important to engage with DfT on the consultation and we shall continue to arrange meetings to address the detail in the 61 page paper. The attached one page summary may offer an easier way in, and please get in touch if you would like to get involved.
About the Author
Alistair Kinley is BLM’s Director of Policy & Government Affairs.
Alistair is responsible for BLM’s engagement with government departments and regulators on policy and public affairs issues and consultations affecting the firm and its customers. He coordinated BLM’s market-facing activities in connection with the Insurance Act 2015 and the consultations which preceded its publication and introduction in Parliament.
He is a member of the Civil Justice Council (CJC), a regular speaker and experienced commentator on legal and procedural reforms and was a contributing editor to the Law Society’s Litigation Funding Handbook (September 2014).
The government has this week launched a 14-week consultation to determine whether the current definition of a vehicle should be extended. It will question which type of vehicles should be covered by compulsory insurance.
Transport Minister Andrew Jones MP (Harrogate & Knaresborough) replied this week to questions from Sammy Wilson MP (East Antrim) about how the UK Government intends to deal with the decision of the European Court in Damijan Vnuk v Zavarovalnica Triglav (a Slovenian case).
Mr Wilson – who backed the leave campaign, as did 55% of his constituents – represents a constituency with a large farming sector and his interest in Vnuk seems more likely to stem from that background than from the need for technical alignment of UK and EU motor insurance regimes.
It has been little over a month since the Commission released its eagerly anticipated road map setting out possible options to deal with the potentially complex consequences of the Vnuk decision. Although setting out four options, the road map which is entitled ‘Adaptation of the scope of Directive 2009/103/EC on motor insurance’ seems to lean in favour of a modest but important change to the Sixth European Motor Insurance Directive (MID). This is the third of four options identified by the Commission.
Since publication of the road map, we have held two well-attended meetings with insurer customers and stakeholders from the motor sport industry to consider views, share opinions and outline next steps. There was, as one would expect, some speculation at the meetings about how the workings out of the UK’s decision to leave the European Union might affect both the current handling and ultimate resolution of the Vnuk dossier. Nonetheless and in line with our preliminary thinking, option three – amending the MID to limit the need for compulsory motor insurance to the use of vehicles in traffic – looked very much to be the preferred choice.
Of course, there is uncertainty about what the exact wording of the proposed amendment to the MID would be. The Commission suggests that use of a vehicle in traffic could be defined as the transport of persons or goods, whether stationary or in motion, in areas where the public has access in accordance with national law. The present wording of the Road Traffic Act 1988 requires cover for use on “a road or other public place”. Quite how this phrase fits with the Commission’s suggested definition will dictate the scope of any amended required to the RTA once the positon at EU level has been confirmed.
As to timelines for amending the MID, it would seem that by summer 2017 is a possibility, but deadlines on Vnuk have slipped before … and there is some irony, perhaps, in the road map’s statement, nearly two years after the case, that “a swift response at EU level is warranted.”
One outcome we are keen to avoid for the post-Vnuk amendment being caught in the wider REFIT exercise (see, for example our December 2015 post about REFIT here). However, if this does get caught up with REFIT there could be considerable delay.
The immediate next step seems to be for the Commission to confirm its preferred option following the road map’s publication. It has set out Q3 2016 as its target date. We, like many others, await developments with interest.
Alistair Kinley is director of policy and government affairs at BLM.
This morning the Commission released its road map setting out possible options to deal with unintended consequences of the Vnuk decision. The carefully-worded text is headed “Adaptation of the scope of Directive 2009/103/EC on motor insurance” and sets out four possible options.
Despite the four options described, the road map reads, to me at least, as leaning in favour of the sort of modest but important change to the Motor Insurance Directive that we have already outlined on this blog.
We are still waiting for a road map from the Commission in which it is to set out its preferred approach to dealing with the unintended consequences of the Vnuk case on motor – and on other casualty – insurance policies. Continue reading
The way forward in compulsory motor insurance following the decision of the European Court of Justice in Vnuk (please refer to our briefing note here) was raised in the European Parliament this week.
Commissioner Hill addressed the Internal Market Committee on 25 May and said he believes that “a practical solution” can be found, but did not indicate precisely what that might be or when it might emerge.
With less than a month to go to the referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU, it seems strange that the wackier consequences of compliance with the decision in Vnuk have not yet been trailed out by those hoping to leave the Union. After all, we’ve only just had a spat about whether the EU requires us to sell bananas in bunches of threes or fours and headlines along the lines of “Bonkers EU means Granny’s motability scooter has to be insured!” would hardly be any less edifying.
It was always going to be the way that when my colleague Terry Renouf in his blog of 19 February ‘Unlucky 13 – Damijan Vnuk’, asked how significant an influencer would the Slovenian farmhand be in the coming year, that on that same day, Mr Vnuk could be seen ‘influencing’ a High Court judgment.
Following the judgment in Vnuk there has been much commentary on the wide interpretation of ‘type of vehicle’ and the broader ‘geographic’ (off-road/private land) scope of compulsory motor insurance.