Watchdog: Car insurance – the ‘keys in car’ clause

Super exclusions in your insurance policy can see your cover voided

Watchdog: Car insurance – the ‘keys in car’ clause

You’d think that having your car stolen is bad enough, but what if your insurance claim is rejected as well? That’s exactly what happened to reader Adam Sinclair.

Adam was using his family’s MINI to store his clothes, wallet, watch and phone while he went surfing in Bournemouth, Hants. He hid the keys under the rear bumper, rather than risk leaving them somewhere on the beach, but when he returned to the car, he found it had been stolen.

Aviva rejected the claim based on what’s known as a ‘keys in car’ clause, which states the insurer will not pay out for “loss or damage arising from theft while the ignition keys have been left in or on your vehicle”.

It also argued the insurance policy was void because the documentation stated the car was kept at a home address in Jersey, when the MINI had been garaged in Bournemouth for a couple of months.

You might think this is a clear-cut case, and that Aviva’s reaction is harsh but fair. But the situation is more complex than that.

The ‘keys in car’ clause is a common but restrictive exclusion. As a result, the Financial Ombudsman says insurers must highlight it when the policy is sold, or ensure it’s clearly stated in any summary provided with the full policy – something Tony Sinclair, Adam’s father, says was never provided by the broker who sold the policy.

Tony also says he asked the broker if there were any restrictions on where the car could be taken in the UK – and was told there was none.

Tony told us: “The total bill is nearly £17,000. Insurers give in far too easily on personal injury claims. Yet when some low-life toerag has clearly stolen and then torched a car, they fight like fury not to pay out.”

We asked the Financial Ombudsman whether it considered Aviva to have acted fairly in this instance. A spokesman said: “It’s a very complicated case, and we need to investigate it before we can make a judgement.”

The problemThe Sinclairs’ MINI was stolen after the keys were hidden under the rear bumper. Aviva refused to pay out, leaving them with a £17,000 bill.

Aviva's responseAviva says its ‘keys in car’ clause is mentioned in a key features summary sent to all customers, and should have been told the car had moved.

Legal adviceAny ‘keys in car’ clause needs to be highlighted. The Financial Ombudsman also says it expects a car to be covered when away from its listed location, as with the MINI, unless restrictions are specified.

Our verdictThe Sinclairs have gone to the Financial Ombudsman, so we await the result of its investigation. But exclusions as severe as the ‘keys in car’ clause should be stressed verbally, as well as in writing.

Do you have a motoring problem that needs investigating? We're here to help… E-mail mail@autoexpress.co.uk or Tweet us @AutoExpress.

Recommended

Official: 400 jobs to be cut at MINI Oxford plant
MINI

Official: 400 jobs to be cut at MINI Oxford plant

Reduced customer demand will see almost half all agency staff at the MINI Oxford factory lose their jobs by mid-October
26 Aug 2020
MINI hatchback review
MINI Cooper 5 door 2018 header
MINI MINI

MINI hatchback review

The latest MINI offers the quality and driver appeal of a baby BMW, but the design is becoming caricatured
10 Jun 2020
Best hot hatchbacks 2020
Hot hatches

Best hot hatchbacks 2020

The best hot hatches offer giant-killing performance and a gripping drive, all wrapped in a user-friendly package
7 May 2020
MINI Cooper vs VW Beetle: modern classic head-to-head
MINI Cooper vs VW Beetle - modern classic head-to-head
MINI MINI

MINI Cooper vs VW Beetle: modern classic head-to-head

There’s never been a better time to snap up a reimagined classic, but is the MINI Cooper or VW Beetle a better buy?
22 Dec 2019

Most Popular

Energy firms want the right to switch off electric cars charging at home
Electric cars

Energy firms want the right to switch off electric cars charging at home

New powers being sought to allow energy providers to turn off high-drain devices to manage electricity network
18 Sep 2020
Audi A3 vs Mercedes A-Class
Car group tests

Audi A3 vs Mercedes A-Class

The Audi A3 and Mercedes A-Class are strong competitors in the premium hatchback market - we find out which is best
19 Sep 2020
New Rolls-Royce Ghost 2020 review
Rolls-Royce Ghost

New Rolls-Royce Ghost 2020 review

The all-new luxury Rolls-Royce Ghost saloon brings new levels of refinement
18 Sep 2020