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EC equality directive on goods and services would raise women's insurance rates

The European Commission has presented a proposal for a Council Directive on equal treatment between men and women outside the workplace – which would outlaw lower women's life and motor insurance premiums.

The proposal focuses specifically on the access to and supply of goods and services. So, for example, the use of sex as a factor in the calculation of premiums and benefits for insurance and related financial services would be prohibited. The proposal will now be forwarded to the EU's Council of Ministers for adoption by unanimity, after consultation of the European Parliament.

“This is a ground breaking proposal, calling for gender solidarity in European society” said Anna Diamantopoulou, Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs. “As with past breakthroughs in the field of gender equality, it is being greeted with pessimism from some parts of industry. Contrary to what businesses may fear, this directive would establish a public policy decision that gender discrimination in the access to and supply of goods and services is unacceptable. Therefore it secures a level playing field for businesses in the EU and consumer prices.”

In the UK the AA, a major player in the car insurance market, has noted that the proposed directive would require UK insurers to adopt a single pricing policy for car insurance; policies for women drivers are currently discounted vis a vis those for male drivers, reflecting differential risk factors. The result would be higher premiums for most women drivers, warns the AA.

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