Vehicle Insurance Fraud in Russia Affects Both Insurance Companies and Their Customers

Today car owners in Russia are facing an unusual and ridiculous problem, massively. It often occurs that owners cannot obtain an insurance coverage for their cars because of the shortage of blank contract forms, as insurance companies’ managers are telling them. Such cases were completely unknown just three years ago. Russian lawyers community is investigating this problematic situation which affects the growth of Russian vehicle insurance segment.

Such shortages of blank forms are usually occurring in case one is trying to get a minimum compulsory third-party liability insurance (or OSAGO) contract. So what could cause the so-called ‘shortage’ of blank forms for this type of insurance contract? It appears that it is not the fault of insurance companies’ printers; the reason is the greed of insurance companies which have developed a peculiar ‘marketing scheme’. They are taking advantage of the problems of car owners who are obliged to obtain this insurance according to the law.

So, the shortage of blank forms of OSAGO insurance contracts is being created in purpose. Insurance companies are taking this step in order to boost sales of other their products and services. Particularly, when a customer comes to an insurance company wishing to get an OSAGO contract, he or she is then proposed to sign a life, health or property insurance contract as well. And in case the customer refuses from this additional service, company’s managers say that there are no blank forms for OSAGO contracts. The customer cannot verify this statement of course and has either to agree getting this extra insurance service or just leave.

Basically, in such a situation car owners can complain to the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service of Russia, the Central Bank of Russia or to the Russian Association of Motor Insurers. But practice shows that such complaints do not help much: the only result you can get is a formal report from a controller about an inspection that was made in the company and about the lack of law breaches in this company’s actions. Consequently people are turning to insurance lawyers in Russia more and more often.

Still, there is an option. In fact, the service of vehicle insurance (including OSAGO contracts) is a public agreement according to the Article #426 of the Civil Code of Russian Federation and therefore an insurance company does not have a right to refuse this service to a customer. It does not have a right to force a person to acquire extra services prior to getting an OSAGO contract as well.

In case you have faced such an illegal refusal from corporate insurance manager, you need to write down a formal request to sign an OSAGO contract on paper. You should attach copies of all necessary documents to it, provide your phone number and register it in the insurance company’s branch office (making sure it is sealed). Most probably, in such a case tomorrow they will call you and propose to come again to their office to sign the insurance contract without persuading you to accept any extra conditions.

Now let us investigate the situation with Russian insurance companies refusing to sign third party liability (usually shortened as KASKO) contracts.

Russian insurance companies are having certain problems in this sphere themselves. Central offices are cancelling KASKO services in regional branch offices because of drastic growth of customer fraud which economic security services of branch offices are failing to mitigate.

The reason is that the number of insurance fraud ‘business’ schemes which include acquiring an insurance contract for an expensive car and then doing purposeful damage to it (such as cutting the upholstery, making scratches or fissures on the glass) has grown several times during the last two years. Thus, a car owner can receive the compensation from the insurer which is calculated based upon official car dealers’ prices for repair parts. At the same time, the damaged car would be actually repaired at a usual low-cost repair shop.

Flaws in Russian insurance legislation result in such fraud schemes being very profitable for those who choose this kind of ‘business’. According to information received by Russian lawyers during their professional activities, such schemes are now increasingly used by people who were not involved in fraud schemes earlier.

Economic security departments of insurance companies cannot effectively counter such fraud attempts because they do not have any legal means to perform deep investigations. All they can do is to recommend refusing such claims. But sometimes it makes the situation even worse for an insurer when a car owner whose claim was refused wins this case in a court and receives a sum even bigger than was claimed initially.

The emerging wave of such fabricated insurance claims in Russia has urged many insurance companies to stop providing the service of KASKO insurance and even to quit the Russian insurance market at all. The major part of Russian-based insurance companies used to have the vehicle insurance services as their primary source of income and did not completely realize how many risks are there in this niche; so now these businesses are having a hard time.

So here is an advice for car owners willing to get a vehicle insurance contract in Russia from Russian insurance lawyers. It is better to be very careful when choosing an insurance provider: in case of this company’s bankruptcy you would not be able to claim your payment via the Russian Association of Motor Insurers as this organization can only help to compensate losses by OSAGO contracts. Therefore, you would have register as a creditor in the formal bankruptcy procedure, and the more creditors there would be, the smaller chances of getting some compensation you would have.