There has been a great deal of speculation, and numerous examples of sensationalist reporting, as to the implications of posting details of our current or upcoming holidays on social media sites, such as Facebook. Many insist it will invalidate our insurance, if we post any details online, that may be usable by potential burglars. So. Is it true, or yet another urban myth?
Well. The reality is that this is, for now, at least, another urban myth, although that does not mean it doesn’t have some degree of foundation in fact. Insurance companies in the States are, indeed, using computer programs to check customers’ social media profiles, before paying out, but this has not, yet, been introduced in the UK.
In spite of this, many journalists appear intent on trying to convince us that we will all risk having our policies invalidated if we, in any way, publicise our plans or holiday locations. In a recent article on ThisIsMoney.co.uk (financial website of the year, according to their own home page) they lead with the heading; “Going away? Don’t tell your Facebook friends, or risk having your insurance claims rejected”. Having then explained all the reasons why they feel we should be concerned, they then ended the article with the highly significant sentence; “A spokesman for the Association of British Insurers said no insurer has rejected a home cover claim on the basis of a social media post”.
Quite true; to date, no UK insurer has ever rejected a claim on the basis of a social media post, and this is a policy that is a very long way from being enacted. UK insurers are, however, concerned about this, and the Ombudsman has warned about the potential implications of not exercising the requisite level of ‘reasonable care’ (a key requirement for any insurance policy). However, the UK insurance industry is currently erring towards a somewhat different approach to the problem, by targeting insurance premiums, rather than insurance claims.
Insurance company Hiscox recently told the Sunday Times that it does not insure celebrities who publish their holiday details and dates in magazines such as Hello and OK. It is currently considering extending this policy to regular home owners, as well. Other insurance companies are looking at the level of premiums they will charge, and it is estimated that premiums will be in the region of 10% higher for those customers regularly using social media, as opposed to those who don’t. The current proposition is to introduce additional questions into the original proposal procedure. “Are you actively involved in social media”? is likely to become one of the initial questions, in much the same way as; “Do you currently have an approved alarm system installed”?
Anyone who uses social media extensively could be refused insurance, or charged a higher premium for it. This proposal to ask questions at the initial stages avoids the need to reject claims at a later date. Any claims that are, ultimately, rejected are likely to be on the basis that the insured party misrepresented the situation when they completed the original proposal.
So. Simply posting your holiday plans on social media will not, in its own right, compromise your level of cover. That said, the ‘reasonable care’ clause will still remain valid, and common sense is, still, crucial. We are aware of a couple of insurance claims, currently being dealt with by UK insurance companies, that are being contested by those companies. This is, however, due to quite exceptional circumstances. In each case, the insured parties had announced their plans, not just to their own friends, but the entire Facebook community, along with full details of where they lived. I think we can all agree that that is not exercising ‘reasonable care’. To put it in context, many of us many store our campers, caravans, motor homes etc on our drives. When they disappear for 2 weeks, during the main school holidays, it isn’t rocket science to work out that we are away, but this will not affect our level of insurance cover. However, if (as the Ombudsman loves to quote) you place a large sign on your front garden, saying; “Away on holiday. Please burgle” that is unlikely to meet with the same level of sympathy. It is the same with Facebook. Posting to our own friends or closed special interest groups is not going to cause us an issue. Announcing it to the whole world, with shed loads of detail, is asking for trouble, and inviting rejection of any resulting insurance claims.
Currently (and this may change in the long term) no UK insurance company has ever actually rejected a claim on the basis of a social media post, nor are there any plans to introduce it in the near future. That is yet another urban myth. Of course, it is only common sense to be aware of what we are saying, and to whom, when online, so that we don’t give burglars any more information than we need to about our holiday movements.
That said, this is an area of increasing concern to the insurance companies, and it is likely that it will become an issue in the foreseeable future. If it does, however, it is far more likely to be an issue of refusing insurance, or increasing premiums, rather than a matter of rejecting claims, which, at the end of the day, benefits no one. It may well be a case of; “Don’t believe the hype,” when it comes to the rejection of insurance claims, but that doesn’t mean we should not be vigilant, and wary of what we say within the public arena.