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Green Card Bureau

Members of the National Bureau and Claim Handling

2014.04.14.

The history and aims of the Green Card system

Compulsory motor liability insurance was established in Europe between the First and Second World Wars in order to ensure the necessary indemnity for the traffic victims.

As a result of the increasing number of motorists within the booming tourist industry considerations were already made prior to the Second World War on the perspective of the extension of the territorial coverage of insurance abroad.

Following the Second World War the recently established United Nations or rather its Economic Commission for Europe (UN EEC), situated in Geneva, started to deal with this issue. Their aim was twofold:

  • To establish a system that would ensure that none of the traffic victims in European countries should get into a worse position just because the accident was caused by a motor vehicle registered abroad.
  • To ensure that the entry of people to other countries by car should not be delayed because the prevailing insurance regulations within that country are different from those in their home country.

This problem could have been solved by the harmonisation of the liability insurance laws of the European countries, however, this could not be expected in the near future.

The recommendation No. 5. of the UN EEC

On 25th January 1949 the working group of the UN dealing with this subject, namely the Principal Working Party on Road Transport of the Inland Transport Committee of the Economic Commission for Europe of the United Nations drafted its Recommendation No. 5 suggesting the adoption of the Scandinavian model that was already running since 1926. Essentially, it has been recommended that central insurance organisations of countries with compulsory motor liability insurance should follow the Swedish pattern. This means introducing the Green Card as the certificate of liability insurance guarantee; and these organisations should conclude an agreement with each other enabling them to settle in lieu of the foreign insurance companies the losses caused by foreigners.

Countries participating in the International Green Card System

In June 1952 the resolution of the Inland Transport Committee established the Green Card System with the participation of eight countries with effect from 1st January 1953. The eight countries were: Austria, Belgium, France, Netherlands, Great Britain, Sweden, Switzerland and the Federal Republic of Germany. Within a half-year, another four countries (Denmark, Norway, Finland, Ireland) joined this system. In the next few years, most European countries followed them. Hungary has been participating in the Green Card system since 1961.

As the years passed, the number of member countries of the Green Card system continuously increased.

In the recent years more and more Eastern European countries introduced the compulsory motor liability insurance and joined the system. To ensure the proper running of the Green Card System, the Council of Bureaux is stipulating stringent rules of admission. In the earlier years new members were provided with a transitional membership with limited rights for a period of two years. This has now been increased to four years. The activity of the transitional members is supported and controlled by a committee elected by the General Assembly of the Council of Bureaux.

Although it has been declared as a European system, nowadays some Non-European countries (such as Morocco, Tunisia, Israel and Iran) also became part of it, for economical, political and tourism-related reasons.

Council of Bureaux

With a permanent location in London (and co-operating with the Economic Commission for Europe of the United Nations), the Council of Bureaux (CoB) is the main governing and representative body of the Green Card System. (established in November 1951.)

Its functions:

  • Administering the agreements between the Green Card Bureaux,
  • Finding solutions to the practical problems raised by any of the members related to the agreements between the Green Card Bureaux
  • Acting as the court of arbitration in disputes between the Bureaux
  • Co-ordinating with the Inland Transport Committee of the Economic Commission for Europe of the United Nations and other international organisations (such as the Commission of the European Insurers (Comité européen des assurances i.e. CEA) and the European Commission)
The operating rules of the Council of Bureaux are laid down in the Constitution of the CoB.

The operative issues and preparatory work needed for decision-making are undertaken by the secretariat of CoB as well as the various committees elected from the representatives of the Member States for a limited period. The main decision-making body of the CoB is the General Assembly, which is meeting annually since 1994 (its meetings were less frequent before 1994).

The Green Card Agreement (Uniform Agreement between Bureaux)

The Green Card Agreement is based on two principles:

  • The Green Card Bureau of the country where the accident occurred (Handling Bureau) has an exclusive competence to settle the loss in conformity with the law of the country of accident.
  • The Handling Bureau is obliged to act in the best interest of the insurer of the foreign motor vehicle causing the loss (Paying Bureau).

These principles are duly reflected in the wording of the Green Card Agreement. It is providing details, definitions of the Green Card System, as well as the rules of its operation, handling of claims and the conditions of reimbursement.

The Green Card defined by the Green Card Agreement is a proof of the compulsory insurance cover required in the visited country. Showing the card, the user of the motor vehicle would evidence the motor insurance cover. The Green Cards are printed by each Member State with a wording and in a format approved by the Economic Commission for Europe of the United Nations. The title of the card is printed in the language of the issuing country as well as in English and French. In addition to the official language of the country the issuing National Bureau is indicated in another official language. In its capacity as a Handling Bureau, the Green Card Bureau of the visited country or the insurance company appointed by this bureau shall settle the claim on behalf and to the account of the insurance company who issued the Green Card as the proof of an existing and valid liability insurance contract.

The basic wording of the agreement has remained the same over the years, though some of the articles have been refined with the practical experience gained over the years.

Multilateral Guarantee Agreement (15th March 1991)

Due to the increase of the international motor vehicle traffic the idea to facilitate the operation of the system changed in spite of the satisfactory functioning of the Green Card system. The members of the Green Card system raised the idea of concluding supplementary agreements which are aimed at the elimination of producing and controlling the Green Card as a documentary evidence of the insurance cover.

In the beginning the member countries concluded bilateral supplementary agreements. These accepted either mutually or unilaterally the registration number and the country designation as an evidence of the insurance cover. This depending on which of the parties was willing to provide a guarantee for the vehicles registered in his own country when crossing the other country’s border.

In December 1973 these agreements were first substituted by a so-called Supplementary Agreement of several countries, then on 15th March 1991 it was replaced by the Multilateral Guarantee Agreement.

This agreement was extended to Green Card Bureaux of all those countries which previously signed bilateral agreements accepting the registration number as the evidence of the insurance cover.

Internal Regulations (new unified agreement (1st July 2003)

During the parallel operation of the Uniform Agreement and its further development, the Multilateral Guarantee Agreement the idea of unification of the two agreements was first raised in 1999. The differences in the texts and as a consequence of this the different interpretations underlined the necessity of the unification.

A Working Group was founded for this aim which – considering the results of consultations with the members – finally created the new unified agreement called “Internal Regulations”.

In the Internal Regulations the unification of different definitions have been achieved, the text has become simpler and more comprehensive, further the definitions used are compatible with those of the EU directives. The Internal Regulations is a basic document consisting of the general rules and the optional parts. Further changes can be realised without resigning of the agreement. The Internal Regulations - the new unified agreement - replacing the former agreements came into effect on July 1st 2003.

The provisions of the new agreement should be applied from the date mentioned above and it applies to the new claims and to claims already under handling as well.

Beside the mentioned changes and more detailed regulations the main new feature of the agreement to be stressed is that the regulations regarding the reimbursement between the bureaux of the claims settled have changed and have become significantly stricter. The deadlines prescribed for the bureaux, their members or correspondents have become shorter and are partly resulting in a loss of rights.

The signature of this new multilateral agreement means that the 18 countries (member countries of the European Economic Area being obliged by the directive of the Union anyway) and the rest of the member countries undertook the guarantee that their relations and the accounting will be based on the insurance cover deemed to exist, with the elimination of the usage of the Green Card. This means that – considering its contents – this practice is identical to that of the Multilateral Guarantee Agreement.

 

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