Regional insurance regulators respond to covid-19

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In the wake of the covid-19 pandemic, insurance regulators across the Asia-Pacific have taken measures to provide relief to the insurance sector – both for insurance companies and their customers.

Almost all jurisdictions have urged companies to take steps to make concessions for customers, such as making premium payments and renewals easier, given the lockdowns and travel restrictions in place, as well as providing support to insurance companies.

Here is a roundup of some of the major regulatory decisions in the insurance sector from around the region.

JAPAN

Japan’s Financial Services Agency (FSA) requested insurance companies to take action in order to protect policyholders suffering from covid-19 infections, including: (1) implementing measures such as a grace period for the payment of premiums and policy renewal; and (2) distributing information on these measures as widely as possible, including to insurance policyholders; and (3) in case insurance companies decide to stop providing over-the-counter services and/or take other emergency measures, promptly distribute information on such measures, including the names of branches/offices that will implement them, to all customers.

On 28 February 2020, the FSA established a consultation hotline related to covid-19 to accept queries regarding which contact point at financial institutions inquiries about covid-19 should be directed, as well as consultations concerning transactions with financial institutions that have been impacted by covid-19.

INDONESIA

The Indonesian Financial Services Authority (OJK) has issued suggestions and policies for the insurance sectors. Highlights include:

  • Insurance companies will be able to calculate the value of their investments in bonds (government or private) based on those bonds’ amortized acquisition costs. Currently, insurance companies must calculate the value of their investments in bonds based on the appraised value;
  • Insurance companies are given an additional two-month period to pay reinsurance premiums. Currently, insurance companies must pay the full amount of reinsurance premiums no later than two months after the payment deadline set out in reinsurance policies/treaties;
  • Insurance companies are given an additional 14 days to submit their monthly reports to the OJK. Under current regulations, insurance companies must submit their monthly reports no later than the 10th day of the following month; and
  • Fit and proper test interviews for new directors, commissioners and controlling shareholders can be conducted via video-conference facilities.

MALAYSIA

The Central Bank of Malaysia (BNM) has provided guidance on the obligations for Malaysian insurers to cushion the impact of disruptions caused by the covid-19 on individuals and businesses. The obligations include:

(1) Creating a covid-19 test fund of MYR8 million (US$1.8 million) to cover costs incurred for screening of covid-19 by policyholders;

(2) Extending the period during which a policyholder can reinstate a policy that has lapsed;

(3) Providing options to enable policyholders to continue to meet their premium payments and maintaining their policies;

  • Waiving fees and charges imposed for changes made to policies;
  • Waiving penalties or consequences for late payments of premiums, particularly where policyholders are unable to access electronic payment channels during the pandemic;
    Offer a three-month suspension on payment of life insurance premiums without affecting the policy coverage. No interest shall be charged on the premiums deferred.
  • Facilitating requests for flexibility by affected policyholders to meet their premiums; and
  • Expediting and facilitating claims processes related to covid-19.

Relief for insurers includes:

  • Reducing the interest rate and profit rate stress factor caps as applied under the risk-based capital framework for insurers to 30%, effective from 31 June 2020;
  • Providing flexibility for insurers to meet timelines for regulatory submissions; and
  • Extending the timeline for ongoing consultations on published discussion papers and exposure drafts to 30 June 2020, and beyond.

TAIWAN

The Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC) decided to make it easier for insurance companies to launch new life insurance products that only shorten or remove the waiting period for notifiable diseases such as covid-19. Eligible life insurance products are exempted from the prior-approval procedure to speed up the launch of these products. In addition, the FSC is strongly encouraging insurance companies to offer group insurance products to frontline officials and healthcare providers.

The FSC has also allowed insurance companies to invest in the Islamic fixed income securities called sukuk bonds. A sukuk often requires an originator to create and provide a purchase undertaking to a special purpose vehicle (SPV), the issuer. The FSC, however, has imposed a limit on the amount of investment by insurance companies in foreign bonds, including the sukuk bonds.

THAILAND

The Office of Insurance Commission (OIC) has established the OIC Response Centre – covid-19 to communicate the agency’s policies and measures. Some of the steps taken by the regulator include:

(1) Fast-tracking product filing scheme. The OIC has initiated a fast-track product filing scheme specifically for policies covering risks relating to covid-19.

(2) Certain policies to cover covid-19 risks. The OIC published two registrar orders to make clear that the following insurance policies sold before 17 March 2020 cover risks relating to covid-19, unless the policyholder: (i) has become infected with the virus before purchasing the policy; or (ii) has contracted the virus during the wait period.

(3) Relaxation of requirements. The OIC has announced that certain requirements (e.g., reporting, premium payment, licence application, etc.) are to be relaxed. In addition, it has issued other relief measures and guidelines, including:

  • Cancelling insurance broker licence applications and examinations in 14 provinces from 24 March to 30 June 2020;
  • Allowing application submissions and instalment payments of preliminary compensation to be submitted online from 25 March 2020 onwards; and
  • Appointing a covid-19 committee to ensure that insurers comply with their business continuity plans and other preventive measures.

THE PHILIPPINES

Notable steps taken by the Philippine Insurance Commission include:

  • The submission of all reportorial requirements due within the community quarantine period was extended for a period of 30 days from the due date of the policy , subject to further extension;
  • The insurance commissioner may grant an extension for submissions of documentary requirements, upon written request and meritorious grounds;
  • Decisions and rulings by the commission may be temporarily deferred to after the lifting of the community quarantine;
  • The processing times for transactions, applications and requests for services, when falling due during the quarantine period, may be adjusted by the commission on a case-to-case basis. However, this is not a suspension of expeditious product approval;
  • New requests for approval during the quarantine period will be suspended. However, requests submitted before the declaration of the community quarantine shall be deemed approved if the commission fails to release an approval letter within the prescribed period; and
  • All hearings before the commission’s claims adjudication division, and the regulation, enforcement and prosecution division, which were scheduled during the quarantine period, have been cancelled and reset.

Business Law Digest is compiled with the assistance of Baker McKenzie. Readers should not act on this information without seeking professional legal advice. You can contact Baker McKenzie by emailing Danian Zhang at danian.zhang@bakermckenzie.com.