The coronavirus crisis is also leaving its mark from a legal perspective. Legal protection insurance from AXA-ARAG has been regularly inundated with inquiries since the beginning of the crisis. Tips from legal experts on problems at work, online shopping and travel planning are in particular demand.
The coronavirus crisis is also bringing a great deal of legal uncertainty, as can be seen, for example, in the number of legal cases reported to AXA-ARAG this year. In the first eight months, case numbers rose by 21 per cent on average compared to last year. In March, the legal insurer even reported a 42 per cent jump in reported cases compared to 2019. Disputes arose in particular concerning the world of work, online shopping and travel planning.
The situation at work has turned out to be particularly challenging for many people. Consequently a large number of inquiries have related to employment law and these have seen a rise of almost 10 per cent since the beginning of the crisis. The most common questions were about short-time working or salary issues during short-time working, disputes about the incorrect calculation of compensation for short-time working, uncertainties about minus hours despite imposed short-time working or, very generally, support when registering for compensation for short-time working.
AXA-ARAG has also received many inquiries about terminations due to coronavirus. And working from home also had its downside. For instance, many employees asked whether employers could force them to work from the office again, although they were in a risk group. By contrast, others wanted to go back to the office, although their employer was dissuading them from doing so. "There was and still is great uncertainty about issues of employment law during the coronavirus crisis", says Jürg Schneider, CEO of AXA-ARAG.
Even the government's quarantine rules - requiring those returning from certain countries to self-isolate for ten days - which have been in place for a few weeks and are being amended constantly plus the resultant questions about continued salary payment are posing new challenges for employees and employers and are therefore affecting legal protection insurance as a result.
The tourism industry suffered a veritable slump due to coronavirus: International holiday travel almost came to a complete halt during the coronavirus pandemic and is only recovering slowly. This has also been reflected in the number of questions about travel law which have doubled in the past few months. Many customers turned to their legal protection insurance after their queries went unanswered by the airlines or travel agencies. There was great uncertainty in particular about whether flights would be taking place or whether travelers should cancel themselves or not. "Anyone canceling a flight themselves may potentially lose any claim. Caution is still required here", says Jürg Schneider.
Cancellations of hotel bookings, package holidays or Airbnb bookings were also a worry for many ARAG customers. This is because although customers often have the right to a refund, actually getting the money back is frequently very difficult in reality. AXA-ARAG supported its customers by writing correspondence or initiating measures on legal representation, for example.
After online shopping was given a real boost by the lockdown, it did not take long for the first legal disputes to appear. In addition to sanitization products and masks, popular products in particular were also food, home accessories and sports equipment - and delivery of these items took far too long, much to the annoyance of consumers. "We already received regular inquiries about online shopping before the coronavirus crisis, but these have risen sharply since March", says Jürg Schneider.
One of the most common risks when shopping online is losing your money directly. This typically happens when the customer pays for something – normally the goods ordered – before receiving them. Customers of AXA-ARAG had particular concerns about precisely such problems during lockdown. For example, goods they had ordered that were not only delayed, but not delivered at all, despite having being paid for in advance. Furthermore, there were often indirect losses if ordered goods did not meet expectations, for example if there were incorrect or partial deliveries or goods were defective. This was frequently the order of the day too during lockdown due to high order volumes. "To get their money back, many customers turned to our legal advisors who supported them with their next steps, negotiated with counterparties or in rare cases, engaged external lawyers", says Jürg Schneider.
To prevent a situation from going that far, the experts from AXA-ARAG advise in particular that people should be wary of fake online shops and avoid them. However, it is often difficult to determine whether an online shop is legitimate just from the website. But anyone using search engines to find relevant forums and blog entries can usually form a pretty good picture.
However, the coronavirus crisis is not only resulting in an increasing number of legal disputes, but is also fueling the consumer need for simple, digital offerings. "During the coronavirus crisis, we have seen a 35 percent increase in policies concluded online", says Jürg Schneider. What has been happening for a long time with shopping is also reflected now in the insurance industry: it's not just jeans that are being bought online, but also insurance or a consultation with a lawyer that are being handled via online channels. In coronavirus times, a good alternative and safer way from a health perspective is to source a product or service online.
As the largest legal protection insurer in Switzerland, AXA-ARAG has invested a great deal in digital solutions in the last few years. For example, a new digital legal case reporting form saves the insured from laboriously clicking through a questionnaire. They simply have to outline their concern in a few sentences, and thanks to an intelligent algorithm, the system automatically recognizes the legal area of the customer's concern. The MyRight online platform offers round-the-clock legal support, featuring numerous tips and tricks and a one-off telephone consultation for anyone who is not insured. This investment is now paying off, and customer satisfaction has risen despite an extraordinarily high number of inquiries. "Thanks to our digital offerings, people didn't have to wait long on the telephone, and we were able to give our customers professional advice very quickly", reflects Jürg Schneider with satisfaction.