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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 August, 2003, 05:00 GMT 06:00 UK
Ban urged on 'sexist' insurance
Anna Diamantopoulou
Anna Diamantopoulou is pushing for change

The European social affairs commissioner Anna Diamantopoulou has told the BBC that women are being punished when they buy insurance because of biological differences to men.

The commissioner, who is championing plans for a new directive on sex discrimination, says insurers should not take account of pregnancy or longer life expectancy when setting premiums.

It is the first time Anna Diamantopoulou has spoken publicly about her plans to outlaw sex discrimination in the supply of all goods and services.

Interviewed on Thursday's edition of BBC News 24's Business Today programme, she says women are being punished when they buy insurance because of two biological differences.

Higher premiums

Women pay more for health insurance because of the risks linked to pregnancy. Secondly women get lower incomes from their pension savings when they buy an annuity.

Insurers say annuities for women are lower for a reason. The same pot of pension money has to last longer - so it is spread more thinly over more years.

They say that while health insurance costs more for women at first, it is cheaper at later ages, when men are more likely to claim.

But their arguments have not satisfied the commissioner, who says biological differences should be ignored by insurers.

While women taking out annuities and health insurance may benefit from the law change, women could pay higher car insurance premiums as a result.

Women often benefit from cheaper premiums, as they tend to cover fewer miles, and drive smaller cars.

In response Mary Francis director general of the Association of British Insurers told the BBC that there was good reason for insurers taking a persons gender into consideration.

"Information about differences between the sexes, differences in life expectancy, differences indeed, in the fact that you might get pregnant if you're a woman are relevant to setting insurance prices," Ms Francis said.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Nils Blythe
"Overall the proposals will make women better off"


Mary Francis, Association of British Insurers
"We have always charged you for insurance according to how risky you are"



SEE ALSO:
Pensions explained: Annuities
11 Dec 02  |  Business
Women better drivers says watchdog
09 Oct 01  |  Business
Britons 'accept' pay sexism
02 Jul 03  |  Business


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