Car – theft after radio key hack: When does the insurance company pay?

The keyless locking systems of cars are practical for the car owner – but a gateway for criminals. Now a court has clarified whether the victims remain seated on the damage if the vehicle is stolen.

Unauthorized opening of a car by means of an intercepted radio key signal is not “breaking open”. The Household insurance does not have to pay for items stolen from the vehicle in such a case. This was recently ruled by the Munich District Court.

In the case under discussion, a driver’s valuables were stolen from a parked vehicle. Because there were no signs of burglary, the owner assumed a so-called “relay attack”, in which criminals disrupt the signal from the remote control key when locking or intercept it and use it to open the vehicle. The contents insurance of the injured party refused to pay the damage. Only theft after a “break-in” is insured – in this case, however, it is not such a thing.

Departure includes the use of force

The district court agreed with the insurer’s point of view. According to common usage, a departure involves the use of force, which is why unauthorized opening by radio signal does not fall under the term. For the insurance industry’s cost and risk calculation, it is necessary to clearly define the insurance conditions. Additional risks could not be added to the Treaty later simply by interpreting clear wording.

The court found another argument: the fact that relay attacks are treated differently is also supported by their difficult verifiability. Because, unlike breaking open by force, they leave no trace. The demarcation to simply forgetting to lock is much more uncertain and for them insurance hardly comprehensible. (Ref .: 274 C 7752/19)


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