Risk based pricing no more... European Court over-rule essence of insurance

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4 March 2011
Catherine Stagg-Macey
As a worker bee in the insurance industry, I've heard all the arguments about insurance companies getting the better of consumers through outrageous pricing. Usually, after a calm conversation about pooling risk, and risk based pricing, and assuming they are still awake, they start to understand. They see why a 19 year old male driver should be priced higher than his 18 year old sister. They see why annuities cost men less than women. So it has come as a great shock to all of us in European insurance that the European Court of Justice ruled this week that gender can now longer be a factor in pricing. The ruling was made as pricing differentials based on gender are deemed discriminatory. This action will have impact in several areas. There are insurers that are focused on women, such as Sheila's Wheels in the UK. What is the future for a company with such targeted segmentation? What is likely to happen is we will see rate rises in certain age segments. Industry observers have suggested that female drivers will see hikes in their premiums of up to 30%. So the law that sets out to ensure equality, in fact results punishing the statistically less risky drivers. It is very dangerous to start undermining the essence of risk-based pricing. If the ECJ can rule against gender in risk pricing, then what's to stop them taking the same view point on age? By some perhaps unintended quirk in timing, the ruling comes into forces at the end of 2012, at the same time as SolvencyII. We have several months to ponder the full impact, and hope the age doesn't become the next factor in political correctness.

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