Many drivers in France are feared to have purchased invalid car insurance from an unauthorised insurance firm.
People who have purchased insurance from American film Zebrance are actually uninsured and should take legal action as soon as possible, the French insurance watchdog ACPR announced on November 10.
They are at great risk because not only could they face a €750 fine if stopped by police but they could be liable for any damage they cause to other vehicles, drivers, passengers, property and pedestrians, as well as repairs to their own vehicle. If there are victims this might be a considerable sum.
If an uninsured driver causes an accident, the Victims’ Guarantee Fund compensates the victims, however the driver must reimburse the fund.
Zebrance has been selling insurance online since June 2023, attracting customers with extremely low prices and a barrage of glowing social media testimonials:
- “Zebrance was a veritable revolution for me! Easy and intuitive, I was insured in 5 minutes”
- “It’s simply the insurance you need to have in times of inflation. A big thank you.”
- “An effective and available team. Zebrance has clearly made a difference on the market”
The firm’s legitimacy was called into question on October 30 by the French consumer magazine 60 Million de Consommateurs.
A reader, who had bought insurance with Zebrance for the incredibly low annual price of €180, contacted the magazine after receiving his insurance papers along with his carte verte, the proof of insurance that must be displayed in cars.
On the insurance papers, it said the firm was based in Delaware in the US. The reader asked 60 Million de Consommateurs if an insurer based outside of the EU was acceptable in France.
However, the magazine found that Zebrance was not registered as an insurer with Refassu, the register of authorised French insurers, or with industry watchdog ACPR.
It also found that the positive comments on Zebrance’s website were all drawn from ‘sponsored content’ paid for by the firm itself and published commercially.
Zebrance initially denied that its offer was fraudulent and threatened to sue the magazine.
“We have been duly certified for our activity. Indeed, the French regulation authority ACPR is perfectly aware that we offer insurance to people in France,” it told 60 Million de Consommateurs.
‘Contracts without any value’
On November 10, the ACPR confirmed the findings of 60 Million de Consommateurs saying: “This company does not have a lawfully issued licence from ACPR or from any other competent authority in an EU member state.
“It is not authorised to operate as a direct or indirect insurer in France. Contracts delivered by this company are without any value.
“If you have taken out an insurance contract with Zebrance, the ACPR advises you to take legal action as soon as possible and to purchase another insurance deal from a certified firm.”
Authorised insurers always include their affiliation with ACPR and Refassu along with their European address on insurance papers.
It is not known at this stage how many people have purchased insurance from Zebrance.
However, Elodie Toustou, deputy online editor of 60 Million de Consommateurs told The Connexion that it is fortunate the scheme was caught early.
"It means that that this false insurer didn't have time to 'insure' thousands of people. We raised the alert early enough to help limit the number of victims," she said.
"It is possible that a hundred or even several hundred people signed up."
Sponsored articles withdrawn
The announcement left various media outlets that had published promotional material for Zebrance scrambling to remove them.
One such article was published on the website of news outlet La Tribune on September 23, entitled: Zebrance, une assurance qui fait la différence (Zebrance an insurer that makes a difference).
The article has since been removed.
“This publication was commercialised by an agency with which we have a contract,” La Tribune told Agence France-Presse.
“Of course, when we check what we are doing, we make sure that there is no hateful content and that everything is in compliance with the law,” it said. “But we work on the understanding that our partners are doing their job.
“It is quite rare that this sort of thing happens given the number of sponsored articles we run each month,” said La Tribune.
Another sponsored article for Zebrance is still viewable on the website of news outlet 20Minutes.
Zebrance has not responded to requests from The Connexion for a statement.
We note that its website is still online as is its automated telephone line and Facebook and Twitter pages.
If you have purchased car insurance from Zebrance, please contact The Connexion at firstname.lastname@example.org.