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Euro court slaps down insurers over gender risks

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The European Court of Justice has ruled that insurers should not treat gender as a risk factor when assessing premiums, clearing the way for higher costs for women. And probably men.

A Belgian consumer organisation had brought the case, which centred on exemptions from the EU's anti-discrimination directive that allowed insurance companies to take gender into account when setting premiums.

Thus young men looking for car insurance are generally considered to be boy racers and hit with swingeing premiums, while young women pay much less.

The court declared that the directive was "silent" as to how long the exemptions should last, meaning "Member States which have made use of the option are permitted to allow insurers to apply the unequal treatment without any temporal limitation".

This might have meant they could have lasted indefinitely, so the Court of Justice has now ruled that "in the insurance services sector, the derogation from the general rule of unisex premiums and benefits is invalid with effect from 21 December 2012".

This is expected to mean women will now have to pay more car insurance. However, other forms of insurance will also be affected, with annuities, for example, likely to pay out less to men, who have traditionally gotten better rates on account of their tendency to die earlier. ®

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