EU Court Says Gender Can’t Be Factor in Insurance

Will boost women’s retirement income; could boost costs as well

The European Union’s (EU) top court ruled Tuesday that insurance companies cannot consider gender as a factor when determining premiums and payouts on such products as annuities, retirement savings and coverage for accidents.

Reuters reported that the finding could mean that women will receive more retirement income, although their accident insurance premiums may be higher and men may also see a substantial difference. The court’s ruling can have some major implications for insurance companies as well.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) agreed with Advocate General Juliane Kokott’s interim ruling, issued in September, that an EU directive erred when it allowed gender to be used in risk assessment and thus in determination of different benefit and premium structures for men and women. The ECJ issued a statement that said, in part, "Taking the gender of the insured individual into account as a risk factor in insurance contracts constitutes discrimination." The statement went on to say, "The rule of unisex premiums and benefits will apply with effect from December 21, 2012."

The delay in implementing the ruling is designed to allow EU member states to adjust laws on the matter and also to permit insurance companies to bring their businesses into compliance.

Currently, annuities pay out more to male beneficiaries than to females, because statistically women live three years longer than men. Insurance analysts say that the change could bring women as much as an additional 10% in retirement income. An unidentified insurer said in the report that insurers might now try to learn an insured’s gender in ways other than by asking outright so that they can more accurately assess their risks.

Companies such as Britain’s Legal and General and Prudential, Germany’s Allianz, and France’s Axa will be affected by the ruling.

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