BBC News
Launch consoleBBC NEWS CHANNEL
Page last updated at 17:21 GMT, Friday, 4 July 2008 18:21 UK

Have Your Say: Age Discrimination

A group of female pensioners sitting on a bench
Are some customers rejected or penalised for being too old?

New laws are planned to outlaw age discrimination in financial services.

The government's new Equality Bill will say that companies will no longer be able to turn down credit card or insurance applications just on grounds of age.

But there are some areas of personal finance where it will still be allowable to charge older people more.

Do you think the financial services industry discriminates unfairly against some customers?

Have you found it difficult to get a financial product or been charged more because of your age?

Would you like the government to take further action in this area?

Or is discrimination acceptable if it reflects reality, such as older people being charged more for insurance because they are more likely to claim?

We asked for your comments - a selection of which are below. The debate is now closed.


Every person should be assessed on their own merit for insurance
Dr Lesley Evans, Minehead
My husband is nearly 80 but is fitter than I am at 65, and recently climbed mountains in the Lake District almost daily for three weeks. He has also walked 14 very hilly miles along the South West Coast Path from Lynmouth to Porlock. A friend of ours is 86 and led a very tough day walk into a remote part of Exmoor a couple of weeks ago - I was exhausted at the end but he was as fresh as at the beginning! Another friend of 82 regularly goes rock-climbing on our coastal cliffs. It is totally wrong to lump all people together and discriminate against them because of their age. People who have kept fit all their lives and reached their 80s are a better bet in terms of health risk than some unfit 50 or 60 year olds. I speak as a retired consultant geriatrician. Every person should be assessed on their own merit for insurance, not on grounds of age but of fitness.
Dr Lesley Evans, Minehead

There is discrimination as far as travel insurance is concerned. I wish we could have a no-claim bonus on travel as we do for cars. I'd be laughing then. As it is, at 65+ I have to pay a hefty price for travelling more than once a year. I'm convinced it'll get worse when I'm 70. I'll have to spend the kids' inheritance on travel insurance. Maybe by then the actuaries will come up with updated records.
Ralph, Crowborough, East Sussex

Just because I turn 65 should not mean I am suddenly a high risk person
E Christie
Actuarial risk assessments are one thing. What I object to is the fact that we have had whole year travel insurance with the same company for several years now and have never claimed on it. Just because we turn 65, the premiums will more than double. That is a rip off. There should be no-claims bonuses, as with car insurance etc, and your previous record should be taken into account. If I can prove that I have years and years of travel behind me with no issues, just because I turn 65 should not mean I am suddenly a high risk person. I am no riskier to insure than I was last week. If I suddenly developed an age related disease - fair enough.
E Christie

Last year at the age of 62 I went on a 2 week tour of Australia. I took out travel insurance with Tesco insurance. I am not sure of the exact amount but it cost me around 50.
Terence Bandy

Eighteen months ago, just after my 70th birthday, I tried to get travel insurance to cover a Christmas holiday in the UK. I simply wanted to insure against unexpected cancellation through accident, illness or bereavement - there was no health insurance involved as I am registered with the NHS. I was refused because I admitted being on a waiting list to get specialist advice about a long-standing ear problem which would not have affected my travel plans in the least. They did not accept anyone over 70 who was waiting for a hospital appointment, however trivial the complaint. Even Saga refused me. Luckily my local bank was able to help at a higher premium which also covered my luggage.
Sarah Rowles, Aberystwyth

There are many areas of age discrimination, quite blatant ones, which favour the older person.
Michael Brice, Reading

There are many areas of age discrimination, quite blatant ones, which favour the older person. Examples are 'silver saver' saving accounts, higher tax allowances, free bus passes, railcards, heating allowances, discounts at retailers such as Boots, free TV licences, discounted hair cuts, etc etc. I would say these examples overwhelmingly exceed the insurance industry distortions discussed on Money Box. So yes, let's please deal with inequality, but it must be ALL inequality between adults. Old age should be something that we all prepare for financially throughout our lives, with the assistance (state-funded or otherwise) reserved for the needy of any age.
Michael Brice, Reading

Surely, the aim of the legislation is to educate the financial service industry and others about the need for equality of opportunity for every section of society, regardless of race, age etc. The blanket approach of such services is offensively negative. Although I recognize the need for risk analysis, I have not yet seen any discrimination against a younger friend, who has some health problems,(not disabilities, when it comes to travel insurance.
Sylvie, Maidenhead

The Government should look at its own practices. If you become disabled below age 65 you may qualify for a Mobility Allowance which makes available other benefits such as the Motability Scheme (provision of a car) and exemption from Vehicle Licence payment. These benefits continue for the rest of your life. However if you become disabled over 65 you do not get a Mobility Allowance and the other benefits associated with this are not available to you
Malcolm Campbell, Hindhead

I don't believe the government should be micro-managing the way businesses run their affairs.
Andrew, Horley

There are quite a lot of savings accounts with good interest rates which are only available to over-50s. As I'm only in my 30s, that means I'm excluded. Similarly, many banks offer favourable savings rates to the under-18s. Will this kind of age-related preferential-treatment continue to be allowed? In the broader picture though, I don't believe the government should be micro-managing the way businesses run their affairs. There should be some mechanism to ensure that certain sections of society are not unfairly excluded from certain types of products (I've no doubt insurance-risk does have a strong age-sensitivity, so the premiums will reflect this), but please allow businesses to work out their own ways of targeting different markets.
Andrew, Horley

I am 71, fit & active and have paid into the HSA (Hospital Savings Association) since a child. For many years I have paid the level just below the top one (there are 6 price options each with a related pay out for sickness and health costs). Having seen myself comfortable in retirement income I attempted to raise my weekly contribution from about 11 p.w. to the top level around 15. I was told though that I could not do so because I was over 65. Whilst I can understand the suspicion that I might be doing so due to a new medical condition this could be dealt with by precluding existing conditions when applying. I feel this is certainly age discrimination.
David Bolton, Essex

When I first got car insurance I had to pay 1200 premium on a car that was only worth 400. Will all this talk of age discrimination go any way to helping young people? My involuntary excess as a "young driver" is higher than an older but more inexperienced driver, how is that fair?
Helen, Hampshire

Does that mean that the government will be removing the anti-young discrimination that is applied by the government on minimum wages and local housing allowances? If not then this is another way to make the young pay they don't have enough burdens!
John, Stafford

I am 74 and have been conscious for some years that I am discriminated against when trying to get insurance. I have been driving for 50 years and have a good record. I am extremely fit and active and alert.
John, Epsom

Age is just a number...Don't write off the over 60s
David Benyon, Cornwall
I am 61 years of age - so what? I can "fly" a computer and do a lot of things that others cannot. Age is just a number. I have already outlived several of my peers. Recently on a trip up-country to collect eBay items, my trailer had a puncture - no spare carried as the wheels are so huge. As it was 8.30 on Friday night, the tyre fitters would be shut so I went in Asda, bought a puncture outfit, glass paper and talcum powder and fixed the puncture myself. Don't write off the over 60s. I can see that hiking-up premiums for the older generation is going to be the next big scam.
David Benyon, Cornwall

Whatever our age, we cannot expect to obtain insurance cover for all eventualities without paying the appropriate premium according to the risk involved. If we are looking for a specific insurance cover, then it is surely necessary to go to specialist companies to obtain a quote. If we as senior citizens expect insurers to offer cover where there is a high risk as to health or our ability to drive a motor vehicle, then we must be prepared to pay the appropriate premium and companies must have the right to decline to take on our business having reviewed our medical or indeed claims history. If we are to demand equality and an end to age discrimination, we must expect to lose our privileges such as free bus travel, reduced cost of entrance to theatres, stately homes and other attractions and indeed various discounts from numerous retailer and catering establishments.
Keith D. Taylor, Scarborough

Age discrimination is rife. Over fifties products stop at 65 years. Mortgages are age-limited. My wife and I have just received an endowment payout and our pensions calculations. The insurance companies say we are all healthier and live longer and they take this into account BUT they have not moved their age discrimination up in line. Why not?
David Barber, Dunstable

The reason the elderly pay more is because they are riskier
Alison Wright, Salisbury
What an utterly ridiculous discussion this is, but typical of this politically correct mad world. Insurance premiums are calculated by actuaries who look at statistical information not by people who have an axe to grind against the elderly. The companies need to make a profit in order to continue offering insurance and, if they could make a profit by offering lower premiums, they would. They want all the custom they can get. The reason the elderly pay more is because they are riskier. Would your interviewee be just as up in arms about an eighty year old being refused a part as Shakespeare's Juliet on the basis of age? Or being turned away as an army recruit? This is not an example of discrimination at all; it's just plain common sense. I might just as well complain that, as a 53-year-old, I'm not offered such good annuity rates as my 78-year-old mother would be!
Alison Wright, Salisbury

I came out as better than 73% of the population on a credit risk analysis, but it was pointed out that the downside was my age - 63 - so I may be refused credit solely because of this. My 70 year-old uncle, travelling with his 64 year-old wife, was refused entry to China because he was 70. He is now 99, while his younger wife - who did get to see a bit of China - died age 84. I'm aware that age limits are about statistical risk, but in today's computerised world, surely 5-year cohorts could be used? As it is, travel insurance jumps dramatically at age 65: mothers and daughters in their 60s and 80s are assumed to offer the same risk.
Jaki, London

As a young person it is almost impossible to use car hire companies
Will this law take into account young people? I have found that as a young person it is almost impossible to use car hire companies. I have a full UK driving licence and 3 years no claims, and yet solely due to my age I am ruled out from most car hire companies. I often get the impression that the senior corner is fought for much harder than that of young people. Why is this?

Is the proposed legislation solely aimed to cover financial services and insurance? I am concerned that the law of unintended consequences may disadvantage those whose income is too low to allow for driving a car or taking holidays abroad requiring travel insurance. These are the people who rely on reduced/free bus travel, concessions for visits to the cinema/theatre/museums/art galleries and things nearer home that make life better. Will these be affected by the legislation? Such people who are amongst the poorest may not have the confidence or the know how to make their voices heard. I am not against fair treatment of older people, but concerned that all implications of legislation are considered.
Julie Greenan, West Yorkshire

Why do we need more regulation?...Leave the market to provide for everyone at all levels
Catherine, Bristol
I would like to know whether these moves will help tackle the extortionate insurance premiums for young drivers. Secondly, companies like Saga will not quote me as I am under 50. It is well known that older and very young drivers are much higher risk, and there are specialists who deal in each area. Why do we need more regulation just to make some people feel more included? Leave the market to provide for everyone at all levels.
Catherine, Bristol

An insurance company on the internet would not quote me as I am disabled. When the company offered me a quote directly I asked for the internet price but the company refused.
Donald Lamont, Ayrshire

The comments we publish are not necessarily the views of the BBC but will reflect the balance of views we have received. It is helpful if contributors state if they work for any organisation relevant to an issue discussed. Readers should form their own views on whether messages published represent undeclared interests, or views prompted by a common source.

Money Box



Download or subscribe to this programme's podcast

Podcast Help

External links and helplines
27 Jun 08 |  Moneybox
Harman pushes discrimination plan
26 Jun 08 |  UK Politics
Q&A: The new Equality Bill
26 Jun 08 |  Business

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

banner watch listen bbc sport Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific