EU's Double Whammy for Women's Insurance Mar04

A new EU measure designed to ensure equality for men and women could end up costing the average woman in Britain an extra 100 a year. The proposal calls for equal treatment for men and women in the supply of goods and services, but at the moment women benefit from lower car insurance rates and lower life insurance.


Women are seen as safer drivers by the insurance industry because they tend to drive shorter distances, have lower annual mileages and tend to drive more slowly. The EU proposals under discussion would make it illegal for companies to take into account differences between men and women as drivers, when setting premiums. This could mean that women's car insurance could rise by between 10 and 15 %.


This week, in the EU parliament's Industry Committee in Strasbourg, Eastern Region Conservative MEP, Bashir Khanbhai, supported amendments designed to exclude insurance from the measure and to maintain favourable terms for women. In a very tight vote, the amendments were lost because Labour  and Liberal Democrat MEPs voted against them.


The proposal still has to go through further stages before it becomes law. Commenting on the vote, Mr. Khanbhai said:


"The insurance industry is in business to offer cover for risk of specific drivers with respect to gender, age, profession, type of vehicle, value of vehicle and geographic location. To exclude one of these factors arbitrarily will distort pricing, and disadvantage women who currently enjoy lower rates.  Like any other business, insurers should be free to price their product according to their estimation of cost for the risk covered.


"Equal rights for men and women are indisputable. However, equal rights do not mean identical needs or responses. Gender equality is important in areas such as education and employment but it is inapplicable in assessing risk for motor or life insurance.


"If this measure goes through its later stages and becomes law, women in Eastern Region will know that the higher rates they pay are down to their Labour and Liberal Democrat MEPs".