Laptop data is a tricky concept

Laptop computers are generally included as part of a standard home contents policy, but this cover may provide false or inadequate reassurance. Data is a tricky concept in law, as well as in underwriting.

Laptop computers are generally included as part of a standard home contents policy, but this cover may provide false or inadequate reassurance. Data is a tricky concept in law, as well as in underwriting.

"It is a very confusing situation, mostly because insurance has not kept pace with technology," says David Goldhawk, senior technology underwriter with Hiscox Insurance. "Data is normally not regarded as property, but a disk or CD-ROM is. You may not be able to claim for data itself, but if you lose a disk, you may be able to claim for the disk and the data together."

Liz Nicholson, of Norwich Union, says "most home contents policies cover notebook computers but only as a physical item". But as most laptops go missing away from the home, personal belongings cover would be needed, and, she points out, as such cover is not for the loss of data, you may need a commercial policy.

Tolson Messenger is a specialist in home-office and small business cover. "Our mobile office policy is full all risks," says director Ian Jones. "The two critical things we offer are reinstatement of data and public liability. We cover you if, for example, you spill coffee on a client's computer, and liability insurance is required if your neighbour does some typing for you in your premises."

The best policy nowadays is one designed for our electronic era. "Many companies have old-style policies when loss of document cover is triggered by perils such as fire or flood," says Mr Goldhawk. "Hacking or theft of laptops were probably not envisioned when the policies were written ten years ago."

*www.hiscox.com; Norwich Union, 0800 888222; Tolson Messenger, 0800 374246; www.mobile-office.uk.com

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