Insurers cannot charge different premiums to men and women because of their gender, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled.
The decision means that women can no longer be charged lower car insurance premiums than men, and the cost of buying a pensions annuity will change.
The court was ruling on a challenge by a Belgian consumer group Test-Achats.
It had argued that a current exemption for insurers contradicted the wider European principle of gender equality.
“Taking the gender of the insured individual into account as a risk factor in insurance contracts constitutes discrimination,” the ECJ said.
The requirement for unisex insurance premium and benefits will start on 21 December 2012, giving national governments and the European insurance industry time to adjust. For car insurance, women are generally a lower risk to insure than men but will, in due course, have to pay the same premiums.
The British Insurance Brokers’ Association (BIBA) said currently the cost of the average car claim by an 18-year old man was £4,400, while that for an 18-year old woman was £2,700. “The ruling will have a significant effect on the insurance industry which has used the system of risk based pricing to award discounts to lower risk drivers like young females who are statistically safer drivers,” said Graeme Trudgill of BIBA. “The industry will have to change its model and effectively females will now pay a cross subsidy for males on their insurance premiums.”
Simon Douglas of AA Insurance told BBC News that the decision could add about £400 to the annual cost of car insurance for a young woman. “Particularly for women under 30 where the difference is most extreme, they currently pay about half what a man would pay,” he said. “We could see their prices go up 25-30% and men’s premiums could fall by about 10%.”