United Kingdom

Discriminatory gender pricing could return in event of a Brexit

June 2016


Consumers could once again experience price variations for the same insurance products and annuities depending on their gender, if the UK votes for a Brexit in June, life insurance multinational Aegon has warned.

The EU Gender Directive which came into force in 2012 made it illegal for insurers to base the cost of a policy on the applicant's sex. The so-called gender-neutral pricing which forms part of the 2012 regulations ensures that insurers across the EU charge the same price for both men and women.

But following a Brexit, the EU law could therefore be removed, leaving it open to return to the old system.

Jeff Fox, Principal at Aon Employee Benefits said: "Although Brexit is likely to prompt a review of many EU Directives, it seems unlikely many of these would unravel in the short-term. There would inevitably be a period of transition counted in years, not months."

According to Aegon, although women tended to have cheaper life cover and car insurance, due to increased longevity, their annuity installments were lower than for men, although they were provided for a longer period of time.

Aegon's Pensions Director, Steve Cameron commented: "Different life expectancies between men and women mean gender neutral life insurance and annuity rates create winners and losers between the sexes."

The secondary annuity market, set to be implemented in April next year, was introduced to allow individuals to sell their annuities, but it is unclear if buyers could be made aware of the gender of the annuitant when calculating a price offer. Women could therefore attract higher offers than their male peers.

Cameron continued: "The government's intention to allow individuals to sell their annuities on a secondary annuity market from next April will create many new challenges, not least around interpreting the gender ruling. We need urgent clarity on whether or not those buying second-hand annuities will be allowed to offer women more than men of the same age."

However, despite the gender ruling originating in the EU, Cameron described it as ‘highly contentious' should politicians opt to reintroduce gender discrimination.

Fox added: "There are many EU Directives and many to which the underlying principles would be maintained with or without Britain being a part of Europe. It is not obvious that Brexit would lead to a wholesale reversal of all Directives. Moves against discrimination tend to move in a straight-line in one direction, going backwards to a potentially more discriminatory environment is hard to imagine."



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