A new law has come into effect this week requiring insurers to ask upfront about any matters which they could later use to avoid paying a claim.

The Consumer Insurance Act abolishes the previous requirement on policyholders to disclose “material facts” when applying for cover, instead making it the responsibility of the insurer to ask specific questions about all potentially relevant topics.

The change follows some high-profile instances where companies have invalidated policies on the basis of non-disclosure, particularly in the area of Life Insurance.

Last October 44-year old Nic Hughes died from cancer of the gall bladder. His insurer, Friends Life, rejected the insurance claim on the basis that he had not fully disclosed symptoms that he had experienced at the time of arranging the policy.

Mr Hughes had declared that he suffered from a condition called ulcerative colitis, which shares some of the same symptoms, and his friends and family have launched a campaign to reverse the decision, saying that he did not knowingly omit any information from the application.

Kester Brewin, a friend of Mr Hughes, said: “He certainly made no attempt to deceive – there would have been no point, and he had no reason to do so: the declaration he had made openly meant he was already paying a hugely increased premium.”

Friends Life said in a statement: “The new Act will put into law what the majority of insurers, including Friends Life, have already put into practice. It is clear in this case that medical symptoms were not provided in response to detailed questions on the application form which, had we been aware of them, would have meant we could not offer cover, regardless of the fact that the non-disclosure may not have been related to the eventual cause of the claim.

“It is essential that all customers correctly and fully answer all questions, as failure to do so can result in the policy being invalid and cancelled.”