The European Union has ruled that firms who use gender as a factor in pricing insurance products are guilty of discrimination – meaning that from 21st December 2012, insurers will be prohibited from pricing their policies based on gender.

The new directive rules against gender-based discrimination in the access to and supply of goods and services.  This will mean insurance providers will have to change how they price products such as motor insurance, annuities, and life and health insurance.

The EU has stated that the objective of the ruling was to “eliminate inequalities and to promote equality between men and women”.  Implementation of the directive follows a test case raised by Test-Achats, a Belgian consumer group, which asked whether insurance products should be priced differently for men and women.

The move could mean big changes for insurers such as Sheilas’ Wheels, which provides motor and other insurance products priced specifically for the female market.  Adrian Webb, the provider’s head of communications, 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been designed ‘by men, for men’ and Sheilas’ Wheels benefits, designed with women in mind, correct some of the outdated practices that still exist today.”

He added:  “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.”

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