The articles you find listed throughout our website were written by Les Amis De La Giraudière, or in English, “the friends of La Giraudiere”, also contributions from volunteers and interns who have participated in the different programs at La Giraudiere. We hope you enjoy.
Motoring France – Car Insurance
My experiences of France – By WYST – Brossac
It had been the intention of both my husband and myself to move to South west France for many years and when the opportunity presented itself to us through my retiring early, we decided to take the plunge and move to France. We decided to sell our property in England prior to finding a new home in Southwest France. Having achieved this, we then set off on our journey having put everything we owned, other than the car and our caravan into storage. It was a really relaxing experience because we knew that when we found our ideal French property, we would be able to purchase it immediately.
The whole experience of finding a French property, paying for it and moving in to it took us 3 months to the day. Everything went like a dream. Having settled in our French home we then decided that it would be useful for me to have my own car as we lived in a small village – a little distance from the nearest town. Buying the car was no problem at all – it became a little complicated trying to understand the role of the Carte Grise – Certificat D’Immatriculation , (Equivalent of the V5) and that it was necessary to have a provisional one of these as well as a permanent one whilst the car was being provisionally / permanently registered.
We decided to use an English-speaking Car Insurance agent to assist us through the process of insuring the car in France– this presented no difficulties as they were able to provide a quotation translated into English. However, the policy contract is governed by French law and is written in French – only the French text is legally valid. At this point everything seemed to be running smoothly – I had my new car, and it was insured. There were no issues regarding an MOT (Control Technique) as this was not necessary. In France the CT is required when a vehicle is 4 years old and has to be carried out every 2 years. Additionally, there is no road tax to pay.
Having obtained the insurance it had been my belief at this stage that I would be issued with a renewal reminder the following year. As time went on, I suddenly realised that I had heard nothing from my insurance agent and the renewal date was upon me. At this point I decided that as I hadn’t heard anything I would set about obtaining an alternative quotation – which I duly did and was happy with the quote given to me. The new French insurance agent asked me if I had notified my old French insurance company that I was about to change insurance companies. I informed them that I hadn’t heard anything and therefore I would be going ahead with the new insurance company – which I duly did.
Alarm bells should have been ringing at this point – but as I was not aware that the French insurance system was any different to the English system – I still had not heard anything from my original insurance agent – my new car insurance policy was then set up. The day after the renewal date I finally heard from my old insurance company who were then seeking payment from me for insuring the car. I explained to them what had happened and that I had not heard from them and therefore I went elsewhere.
It was then explained to me that irrespective of whether or not they had been inefficient in not notifying me of the policy renewal details, I still legally had to pay them as they were entitled by law to 2 months’ notice. I was quite stunned by this as it had never been mentioned to me by the original agent and here, I was now faced with paying out twice for my car insurance.
I then went through a lengthy dialogue with the old insurance company regarding process and in particular the difficulty about whether or not I was insured during the period when my policy expired with them, ie midnight and when I heard from them, which was the day after the renewal date – equally of course at this point I had not paid them. In England, I would not be insured during this period and would therefore be committing a criminal offence.
The insurance company then confirmed to me that the French car insurance contract is automatically renewed at expiry date except if it is cancelled by the insured or the insurance company by registered letter at least 2 months prior to renewal date.
I have to say I was still struggling with the interpretation of this. No contact had been made with me and I should have been given a quotation for the renewal at the 2 months period before expiry thus allowing me time to consider whether or not I wished to renew the policy with this particular agency. I was still unhappy about the whole matter and informed the agent that I would not be paying. I heard nothing further at this point and then thought that it had ‘gone away’.
No such luck. I next heard from an organisation who basically were acting as an arbitrator between myself and the insurance company. It was pointed out to me that the longer the matter was not settled, the more expensive it would be for me. Interest would be added to my original renewal fee and French law was very specific about renewing insurance contracts. It was regrettable that my original insurance agent had not been efficient, but at the end of the day this would not alter the 2 months’ notice period. I gave in at this stage – paid up and vowed never to make assumptions that countries act in the same manner regarding any contractual or legal issues.
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