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Accustomed to packing dangerous goods

China’s different customs

Ata travelled to China on a business trip. After a successful week, Ata was to fly out of Beijing Capital International Airport on 4 June 2016. Ata underestimated the time needed to get to the airport and had to rush through check-in. Ata was asked whether he was carrying any ‘dangerous goods’ in his check-in luggage and the airport staff explained that ‘dangerous goods’ included lithium ion batteries.


Ata had packed two lithium ion batteries for his digital camera in his checked in luggage but felt he wouldn’t be able to find and re-pack them in his carry-on luggage and still make the flight. Ata told the staff member he had no dangerous goods. On arrival in New Zealand, Ata unpacked his suitcase, but instead of finding his lithium ion batteries, he found a letter from Chinese Customs advising the batteries had been confiscated.


Ata contacted the insurer to claim for the two confiscated batteries. 


The insurer declined Ata’s claim for the replacement costs for the batteries. The insurer reviewed the policy and noted that cover for loss due to confiscation by Customs, or any other lawful authority, was specifically excluded in the policy. 


Ata was not satisfied with the insurer’s response and complained to FSCL. 



We asked the insurer to provide all correspondence with Ata and the full wording of all relevant insurance policies. We also reviewed China’s international air travel requirements.


Weagreed with the insurer that the policy specifically excluded claims relating to loss, theft or damage “due to confiscation by Customs or any other lawful authority”. We agreed that the civil aviation security officer was acting lawfully in conducting an inspection of Ata’s luggage and the confiscation was due to Customs requirements.


The relevant Chinese regulation concerning the transport of lithium ion batteries in checked in luggage was published on the airline’s website, and we also considered Ata had been adequately advised during check in.



We discussed the policy interpretations and the reasoning to Ata and explained that the insurer’s obligation to cover his travel costs was limited by the exclusion. As Ata’s loss was due to confiscation by Customs, the insurer was not liable to pay Ata’s claim in the circumstances.


After discussing the policy interpretation in detail, Ata agreed the insurer had acted reasonably under the policy and he agreed to withdraw his complaint.


Our insight

Remember to read your policy carefully as many travel insurance policies have exclusion clauses that limit the cover in the event of certain circumstances.


The exclusion for loss due to confiscation by Customs or any other lawful authority is common to many travel policies. It pays to check the travel requirements of the country you are travelling to, and airline you are travelling with, before travel.