Insurance Contract Act (Germany)

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Basic data
Title: Law on
Insurance Contract
Short title: Insurance Contract Act
Abbreviation: VVG
Type: Federal law
Scope: Federal Republic of Germany
Legal matter: Private law , insurance law , social law
References : 7632-6
Original version from: May 30, 1908
( RGBl. P. 263)
Entry into force on: January 1, 1910
(Art. 1 EGVVG)
Last revision from: November 23, 2007
( BGBl. I p. 2631 )
Entry into force of the
new version on:
November 30, 2007
and January 1, 2008
Last change by: Art. 2 G of 10 July 2020
( Federal Law Gazette I p. 1653, 1654 )
Effective date of the
last change:
July 17, 2020
(Art. 3 G of July 10, 2020)
GESTA : C128
Weblink: Text of the VVG
Please note the note on the applicable legal version.

The Insurance Contract Act (VVG) is a German federal law that regulates the rights and obligations of insurers and policyholders as well as insurance intermediaries in insurance contracts .

The original version dates from May 30, 1908. It was fundamentally reformed by the law reforming insurance contract law. The reformed law came into force on January 1, 2008. The old legal position continues to apply in part to old contracts that were concluded up to December 31, 2007. However, for the most part, new law must also be applied to old contracts.


Insurance contract law was originally designed very much in favor of insurers. The insurance collective , the functioning of which is of particular social importance, can be endangered by the knowledge of the policyholder regarding his or her individual risk. At the time the law was first passed, insurers were particularly in need of protection due to their still very poor technical knowledge. On the other hand, policyholders were protected by extensive state supervision of insurers. As a result of the further development of actuarial mathematics and statistics , the insurers' need for protection is no longer so pronounced, even if it is still unchanged, especially in the area of ​​enforcing the obligations of the policyholders. On the other hand, the deregulation of insurance supervision has meanwhile increased the need for protection of policyholders. The new version of the law, effective from 2008, therefore also takes into account the fact that policyholders may be disadvantaged by the lack of transparency in contracts and the technical knowledge of insurers, and consequently the protection of policyholders is placed in the foreground.

New version from January 1, 2008

The Insurance Contract Act was fundamentally reformed by the Act to Reform Insurance Contract Law ( Federal Law Gazette 2007 I p. 2631 ). The new version came into force on January 1, 2008, with transition periods for individual regulations. The transition period runs until December 31, 2008 and applies to contracts concluded before January 1, 2008. The reformed law contains significant changes to improve transparency and in favor of policyholders , for example in the provisions on early termination of life insurance contracts, participation in hidden reserves within the framework of profit sharing and the obligation to hand over all contract documents before submitting an application. The existing insurance contracts at cut-off period gives way to a uniform three-year limitation period . The changes in Sections 192 to 208, which only came into force on January 1, 2009, involve the adoption of the same content as the law to strengthen competition in statutory health insurance of March 26, 2007 (Federal Law Gazette p 378) adopted regulations for private health insurance in the new Insurance Contract Act.

The main changes are:

  • Revocation : Consumers can revoke without giving reasons: for life insurance up to 30 days after conclusion ( § 152 ), for all other insurance contracts with a period of 14 days ( § 8 ).
  • Duty to provide information : In future, insurers or their intermediaries must give customers comprehensive advice before taking out insurance ( Section 6 , Section 60 to Section 62 ). If this is not done comprehensively or incorrectly, the customer has a claim for damages ( § 63 ). The consultation must be documented so that any consultation errors can be more easily proven.
  • Obligation to notify : The policyholder only needs to provide the information that the insurance company has asked for in text form ( Section 19 ). The risk of incorrectly assessing whether a circumstance is significant for the insured risk is no longer with the customer, but with the insurer. If there is a breach of the duty to notify, the insurer must assert its rights within five years. In the event of willful or fraudulent behavior, the period is extended to ten years.
  • Disclosure obligation : The customer must be aware of all contractual provisions before submitting his declaration of intent to conclude an insurance contract. This eliminates the procedure practiced by almost all insurers, according to which the policyholder does not receive the contract terms in their entirety until the insurer accepts the policyholder's application. All surcharges for costs included in the contribution (e.g. acquisition or administration costs) must also be disclosed ( Section 7 ).
  • Deadline for action : The deadline for action does not apply. By the end of 2007 the insured person has to assert his claim to insurance benefits within six months if these have been rejected by the insurer.
  • Negligence : The rules for non-payment in the event of damage are improved for the consumer. A negligent act by the policyholder does not mean a complete exclusion from the insurance benefit ( Section 28 , Section 19 Paragraph 3, Section 24 Paragraph 3, Section 54 Paragraph 1, Section 57 Paragraph 2, Section 82 Paragraph 3). According to the new quota regulation, the reduction in benefits may only take place according to the severity of the respective fault. A complete refusal of performance is only possible in the case of deliberate actions. Example: Household contents insurance has previously refused to pay in some cases in the event of a burglary if the policyholder has not informed the insurance company of an increased risk of burglary. A classic example was attaching scaffolding to the house wall for painting.
  • Life insurances : Insurers, if they provide information at all about future benefits from the surplus participation, must also present their customers in flat-rate model calculations which payments would result under standardized conditions ( Section 154 ). When determining the surrender value , the acquisition costs of life insurance included in the premiums must be taken into account, distributed over the first five years of the contract term. The surrender values ​​in the first five years are accordingly higher than usual today. The surrender value must also be guaranteed in advance for the entire duration of the contract - as has been the case up to now, but not required by law. In addition, at the end of the contract, the policyholders must be paid out half of the share of the hidden reserves allocated to them . However, this regulation does not mean that more is paid out overall, but that the insurer's capital gains are only distributed differently among the policyholders.
  • Private health insurance : The insurance companies must give the insured persons a private health insurance policy in the event of default of payment at least two months and until then maintain the health insurance cover undiminished ( Section 194 (2)). However, this rule only applies until December 31, 2008 and is mandatory for contracts concluded after January 1, 2008. Due to the transition period, however, old contracts can still be dunned with a notice period of two weeks and put into qualified payment default.
  • Contract terms . In principle, these must be specified individually in the insurance contract. This excludes so-called consumer contracts for which an annual notice period applies after the third year. Otherwise, the agreed period of notice must be between one and three months.

The most important changes in the new Insurance Contract Act

Information requirements, abolition of the policy model

The declared will of the legislature is not a prohibition, but the abolition of the policy model by stipulating specific information requirements for insurers and intermediaries who “bite” with this model. According to Section 7 of the Insurance Contract Act, the insurer must hand over all contractual provisions to the policyholder in good time before the "contract declaration" (ie before the application is made!). This means: the policyholder must receive all contract documents, including consumer information, in advance. The obligations to be fulfilled upon conclusion of the contract become significantly more demanding, and sales become more complex. As an alternative to the application model, some insurers therefore prefer the so-called invitation model, in which the contract is only concluded when the policyholder becomes active after he has received the documents.

Advisory and documentation obligations

The law includes obligations that are intended to better protect both consumers and companies (exception: major risks). According to Section 6 (1) Insurance Contract Act, the policyholder is to be “asked about his wishes and needs” and “advised” if there is a reason. This must be documented in writing before the insurance contract is concluded. Exceptions apply to insurance brokers and distance contracts according to Section 6 (6) VVG . The policyholder can waive advice and / or documentation by means of a written declaration, Section 6 (3) VVG. According to Section 6 (5) VVG, the insurer is liable for damages in the event of a breach of obligations.

For insurance brokers, there are corresponding regulations in Sections 59 to 68 VVG, especially Section 61 VVG. The same applies to insurance advisors.

General right of withdrawal

Section 8 VVG contains a right of withdrawal for all contracts of two weeks or 30 days for life insurance policies (as per Section 152 ). It only begins when the policyholder has received all contractual documents and instructions on the right of withdrawal.

Abolition of the "all or nothing principle"

The law provides for an exemption from performance in the event of a breach of a contractual obligation ( Section 28 ) and in the event of an increase in risk ( Section 26 ), a graduated model according to the degree of fault (quota regulation). The “ all or nothing principle ” is no longer applicable. In the case of intentional violations, the insurer will be released from payment. Simple negligence has no consequences for the policyholder. In the event of grossly negligent violations by the policyholder, the benefit will be reduced according to the severity of the fault. In simplified terms, the following applies:

  • Negligence, § 28 Abs. 1 VVG: Full performance
  • Gross negligence, Section 28 Paragraph 2 Sentence 2 VVG: Quotelung (depending on the severity of the negligence, the benefit is reduced).
  • (Conditional) intent, Section 28 Paragraph 2 Sentence 1 VVG: Complete freedom from services

For the exemption to perform, a causality between breach of obligation or increase in risk and obligation or amount of benefits is required, an exception to this applies in the event of fraudulent intent. Unless there is fraudulent misrepresentation, the insurer is obliged to provide full payment if the breach of the obligation was neither the cause of the occurrence or determination of the insured event nor of the determination or the scope of the insurer's obligation to provide benefits (Section 28 (3) VVG).

Pre-contractual obligation to notify

According to Section 19 (1) VVG, the policyholder only needs to report circumstances that the insurer has expressly asked about in writing . The risk of misjudging what is notifiable or not is completely shifted to the insurer. The obligation to notify ends according to Section 19 (1) sentence 1 VVG with "submission of the contract declaration", i.e. with the application. There is no longer an obligation to register.

The right of withdrawal of the insurer (§ 19 Abs. 2 VVG) is mainly acc. Section 19 (3) and (4) VVG limited to intent and gross negligence on the part of the policyholder. In the event of simple negligence, the insurer can only terminate the contract for the future. However, this right and withdrawal due to gross negligence are also excluded if the insurer had concluded the contract based on its risk assessment principles with knowledge of the confidential circumstances with a risk surcharge or exclusion of benefits (Section 19 (4) sentence 1 VVG; withdrawal therefore only in fact with intent) . However, he can demand that the risk exclusion or the risk surcharge retroactively become part of the contract. In this case, in accordance with Section 19 (5) VVG, the policyholder may in principle terminate the contract if the benefit is excluded, but only if the premium increases by more than 10% in the case of a risk surcharge. The insurer must point out the consequences of a breach of the disclosure obligation. Withdrawal and termination are only possible within 5 years, in the case of intent and malice within 10 years, Section 21 (3) VVG.

Increased risk

With § § 23 to 27 VVG, the increase in risk is regulated anew and especially in the legal consequences of the pre-contractual breach of duty to notify according to 19 VVG and the breach of duty according to § 28 VVG adapted (complete exemption from performance only in the case of intent, in the case of gross negligence proportional reduction according to the degree of fault; obligation to perform in the case of simple negligence; decision between termination and premium adjustment; counter-evidence of causality).


Section 33 VVG adjusts the due date of the first premium to the right of withdrawal from Section 8 VVG (two weeks after receipt of the insurance policy). According to Section 37 VVG, the insurer can withdraw from the initial premium delay and is exempt from payment if the insured event occurs before payment ( non-cashing ). In the event of a delay in a follow-up premium, the insurer cansend a qualified reminder and terminate if no payment is made inaccordance with Section 38 (1) and (3) VVG. According to Section 38 (2) Insurance Contract Act, it is exempt from payment if the insured event occursduring the delay in payment . The principle of indivisibility of the premium is abandoned; in the event of premature termination of the contract, the insurer mustdivide the premium to the exact day inaccordance with Section 39 VVG.

Provisional coverage

For the first time, the VVG contains provisions on provisional cover in Sections 49 to 52 . It is an independent contract for which simplified information requirements apply.

Statute of limitations, preclusive period, place of jurisdiction

Claims from the insurance contract will in future become statute-barred in the absence of an express provision in the VVG (adjustment to the general BGB regulations). The statute of limitations is suspended for the duration of the performance test, Section 15 VVG. The deadline for filing a complaint in Section 12 (3) VVG old version is abolished without replacement. With § 215 VVG a new place of jurisdiction is introduced, the policyholder may in future always sue at his place of residence and must be sued there.

Individual branches of insurance

In life insurance, an entitlement to profit sharing is laid down in Section 153 VVG. The same applies to the surrender value in accordance with Section 169 VVG. In the suicide clause according to § 161 VVG (formerly § 169 VVG old version), a waiting period of three years is specified, after which the sum insured is also paid in the event of suicide .

The § § 172 bis 177 SGA for the first time regulate the disability law and introduce a new regulatory model for this insurance.

Transitional arrangements

The new VVG applies immediately to all contracts (new contracts) concluded after January 1st, 2008. Art. 1 para. 1 EGVVG prescribes a transition period for contracts concluded before this date (old contracts) for the year 2008, during which the old VVG continues to apply. From January 1, 2009, the new VVG will also apply to old contracts. Insurers can adapt their general insurance conditions for old contracts within the framework of Art. 1 Para. 3 EGVVG to the new VVG by January 1, 2009. Claims that occurred before 2009 will continue to be processed according to the old law. There are special regulations according to which the old VVG is still to be applied in part for certain old contracts (especially for life and occupational disability insurance, Art. 4 EGVVG).


Web links

Wikisource: Insurance Contract Act (1908)  - Sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. Law on the Reform of Insurance Contract Law of November 23, 2007 (Federal Law Gazette IS 2631)
  2. Art. 2 of the Law on the Reform of Insurance Contract Law
  3. Participation of the insured in the hidden reserves ( Memento of December 16, 2006 in the Internet Archive )
  4. Ftd: What will change for the insured (free access only for subscribers) ( Memento from January 18, 2008 in the Internet Archive )
  5. Art. 11 of the law on the reform of insurance contract law of 23 November 2007, Federal Law Gazette p. 2674
  6. VVG reform 2008
  7. ^ Neuhaus / Kloth, practice of the new VVG, Münster 2007
  8. The EU Commission has repeatedly assessed the policy model as a violation of European consumer protection law, most recently: Opinion of Advocate General Sharpstone from July 11, 2013 in case C 209/12, cf. also the question submitted by the BGH on May 3, 2013 (PDF) .