Nov. 15 (Bloomberg) -- Zurich Financial Services AG, the U.K.’s second-biggest commercial property insurer, defended itself against claims it left customers destitute three months after the worst London riots since the 1980s.
The insurer is “committed” to paying legitimate claims and was “first on the scene” when police cordons were lifted following the violence in August, the Zurich-based company said today in an e-mailed statement. Zurich was responding to criticism from David Lammy, the member of Parliament for Tottenham, that its claims handling had been “woeful.”
The rioting this summer began in Tottenham, in north London, on Aug. 6 after a local man, Mark Duggan, was shot and killed by police after they stopped his car. That night about 26 police officers were injured as rioters burned buses, cars and looted shops. The violence spread to the rest of the city on subsequent nights resulting in more than 3,000 arrests.
“In this country people are still standing destitute,” Lammy said yesterday to a live audience on the British Broadcasting Corp.’s Radio 5Live program. “The insurance companies have been woeful. Shame on them, particularly Zurich, for the way they have treated people.”
Tottenham is in the borough of Haringey, which is one of the U.K.’s 20 most deprived areas, according to a government report published in March.
Zurich, the fifth-biggest non-life insurer in the U.K., said it was the first insurer to extend the deadline for policyholders to lodge claims to 30 days from seven days. The company was also the first to meet Haringey Council to discuss how to rebuild shops and houses, it said.
“We have been discussing these matters directly with Mr. Lammy and his office regularly in recent months and he is aware of all our activities -- including several which would not have been included in the residents’ insurance policies -- to help his constituents,” Zurich said.
The company declined to say how much it has paid out in claims since the rioting in August. The Association of British Insurers said the total cost of claims across London will be about 200 million pounds ($320 million).
Lammy also criticized banks that had been bailed out by the taxpayer for charging interest on properties that are no longer standing. “Shame, to be living in Britain in 2011 and see that happen,” he said.
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