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Women count cost of insurance rules

European ruling means insurance firms are not allowed to discriminate

Insurance companies are preparing to rip up the work of decades after the European Court of Justice ruled it was illegal to discriminate by taking a person’s sex into consideration while setting their premiums.

The ruling affects insurance policies for driving, health and life, as well as pension plans. It is based on a 2004 European directive on equal treatment for men and women, and deletes an opt-out applied by countries including France and the UK.

Insurance firms have used data built up over years to determine premiums for policy-holders. The new ruling, which comes into force on December 21, 2012, will make them rethink their rates and how they calculate them.

Women drivers received lower rates as they had fewer accidents, while young male drivers found they were paying up to twice as much because they were high-risk.

The Sécurité Routière website says women are about three times less likely to be killed and two times less likely to be injured in an accident as men.

Insurance analysts have warned that young women in France can expect car insurance costs to rise 30-60 per cent.

The Belgian consumer group that took the case to the European court said statistics were good as an average, but did nothing for individual cases, such as for young male drivers who do not drive too fast in order to avoid risks.

Different life expectancies for women and men could also see major changes in pensions and life assurance premiums.

Michaela Koller, of the European insurance industry group CEA, said that, in the absence of pension funds in France, the ban would have a significant impact on life insurance contracts taken out for pension savings purposes.

This would contravene the fair pricing principle and make it more difficult for some French consumers to have access to insurance cover.

Some analysts have said men approaching retirement could see an eight per cent reduction in annuity rates, while rates for women could rise by six per cent.

Women could also see a rise of as much as 20 per cent in the cost of life assurance cover, while men could see the price of their cover fall by 10 per cent.

In the UK, Henry Engelhardt, chief executive of the Admiral Group, said: “We will raise rates for young women: we won’t bring them down much for young men. That means more profit.”

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