Insurance: Gender-pricing ruled illegal by EU

1st March 2011

The move will mean that providers will have to change the way they price annuities, life insurance, and health insurance.  

Directive 2004/113/EC1 prohibits all discrimination based on sex in the access to and supply of goods and services.

The ruling, which was published on Tueday morning states:

"The directive prohibits the use of gender as a factor in the calculation of insurance premiums and benefits in relation to insurance contracts entered into after 21 December 2007"

The EU said the aim of the ruling was to "eliminate inequalities and to promote equality between men and women. In the progressive achievement of that equality, it is for the EU legislature to determine, having regard to the development of economic and social conditions within the European Union, precisely when action must be taken.

The EU ruling follows a test case brought by Belgian consumer group Test-Achats which questioned whether men and women should be offered different pricing on insurance products, as this could be interpreted as a form of gender discrimination.

The BBC News website reports that young women could face big increases in the cost of car insurance, if insurers are told that they have to stop quoting different prices for men and women.

On Twitter, insurance industry insiders and expert speculated as to how the ruling would be implemented while some expressed relief that the ruling did not kick in for another 22 months.

Kevin Carr tweeted: Transition period represents a degree of common sense. Immediate effect could've caused chaos."

MSNMoneySteve tweeted about the price of car insurance: "In short, the ruling means that women are likely to pay significantly more for their car insurance. Fair? Let us know what you think.

pensionscharlie was more vociferous in her tweet: "The decision is utterly ridiculous."

Jo Wiggins – JoeWi  tweeted: insurers can't use gender to differentiate pricing then they are going to need a new source of lifestyle data on consumers."

simonnread, a writer for The Independent wondered what would happen to insurers which marketed themselves as female friendly. "Will Sheilas' Wheels now have to become 'He- and She-ilas' Wheels'?   

Sheilas' Wheels, the insurance company which markets itself as female friendly, also put out a response.

It said it had no intention of changing its marketing or diluting its appeal to women. 

Adrian Webb, head of communications at Sheilas' Wheels, said: "The company believes that car insurance has historically been designed ‘by men, for men' and Sheilas' Wheels benefits, designed with women in mind, correct some of the outdated practices that still exist today.

"Sheilas' Wheels has always insured men but most males simply aren't attracted to our brand and we don't see this changing. We brought car insurance up to date by including benefits designed with women in mind that were absent in the market.

"Our handbag cover recognises that even a handbag, let alone its contents, is worth more than most policies' personal possessions limits.   "Despite this ruling, we will continue to market to women and to celebrate our pink brand because it does not prevent female-focused marketing."

See also: Business: Is the “glass ceiling” all in the mind?

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