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Car insurance: Women to pay the price for equality

Women listening to music in the carDespite jokes about women drivers, for years they have paid less for car insurance because they are statistically safer behind the wheel.

But this is all set to change later this year.

A ruling by the European Court of Justice that bans setting insurance prices according to gender is due to come into effect in December 2012.

The ECJ ruled that the long-established practice amounts to illegal discrimination.

The result – women will pay more for cover. The cost of equality will see car insurance premiums for women increased towards the prices paid by their riskier male counterparts.

There is some good news for men however - their premiums are likely to fall as a result of the ruling.

Cost of equality

Gareth Kloet, head of car insurance at Confused.com, said prices for women will "absolutely" increase as a result of the ruling.

What happens now is that insurance is priced on risk – and women are statistically less of a risk on the road than men.

Kloet said: "But it's likely that as a result of the ruling insurers will take a cautious view to the risk when pricing insurance, and by cautious I mean that prices will rise.

"So there will be a levelling in the price discrepancy between men and women when it comes to the cost of car insurance.

"This does mean that men will see their costs fall – but not as much as women will see their costs rise."

Women to pay a third more

Indeed, research by the Labour Party published this month found that women will pay up to a third more - an extra £362 on average - if women's premiums are rounded up to men's levels.

John Woodcock MP, Labour’s shadow transport minister called the situation an "insurance time bomb".

He said: “At a time when motorists are already being squeezed by record fuel prices, women will be dismayed that out-of-touch ministers are not lifting a finger to defuse the insurance time bomb heading their way from Europe.

"Premiums for women are currently less because they tend to have fewer accidents.

"The government must not sit back and let the insurance industry round up to the highest level they think they can get away with – that could mean hikes of up to £360 for women."

What can women do?

Kloet says that there are ways around the ruling for insurers.

"Ruling out setting car insurance prices by gender doesn’t mean there aren’t ways around this.

"For example, insurers may set low car insurance premiums for cars that, based on their in-house data, are typically driven by women, such as Mini Coopers. That’s one way around the ban."

But Labour says the answer to this problem could lie in telematics car insurance.

Telematics-based car insurance uses a device to monitor driving behaviour, such as acceleration and braking.

By demonstrating responsible driving through this sort of monitoring, it is possible for drivers to prove to car insurers that they present a low risk, and insurance premiums may be adjusted accordingly.

How telematics works

A box, about the size of a packet of playing cards, is installed in the car to measure speed, braking and cornering, types of road travelled on, and time of day.

Drivers are able to log in online and monitor their driving skills. The data is sent electronically to the insurer who can then set car insurance premiums accordingly.

Woodcock said: "The ban on insurance by gender means women will need to find different ways to prove they are safe, but currently not enough insurers offer new black box technology that helps safer drivers get lower premiums."

The shadow minister said he would give insurance companies a year to offer a telematics insurance before considering forcing every insurer to offer telematics-based insurance to benefit safer drivers.

Rewarding responsible drivers

"That would benefit all responsible drivers – including women and younger people – who are being clobbered by sky-high premiums."

Kloet says: "Telematics provides a genuine opportunity for drivers to reduce the cost of their cover by proving themselves to be responsible drivers.

"It can benefit anyone who faces high car insurance premiums."

The number of insurers offering telematics is small but growing and includes the AA, Autosaint and Coverbox - all available through Confused.com.

The Co-operative, Insurethebox.com and iKube also offer telematics-based insurance.

And Admiral Insurance, the parent company of Confused.com, is now offering telematics-based insurance through its Bell insurance brand. 

Test your driving skills for free!

Confused.com MotorMate is a new, free, easy-to-use driving app that offers telematics technology without the need for a black box.

Watch our short video guide to find out how the Confused.com MotorMate app works, what it scores on and how you can get rewarded for being a good driver.

Check your car insurance costs

Check our handy car insurance calculator to see the average price men and women currently pay for car insurance where you live, broken down by age.

On our EU gender ruling micro-site you can find out more and - if you're female - check how long you have to take advantage of better premiums with our countdown clock.

What do you think?

Should the long-established practice of setting insurance prices according to gender should be outlawed?

Or is the fact that women drivers are statistically less of a risk on the roads a sound way to set car insurance prices?

Do you think telematics-based insurance is the answer to the problem created by the ECJ ruling?

We want to hear from you. You can leave your thoughts on the message board below.




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Naphtalia Loderick

Naphtalia Loderick

Naphtalia Loderick reports on all things personal finance at Confused.com. She started out on a weekly newspaper, via a national news agency and a stint in the fun but ‘not as glamorous as it appears on screen’ world of TV at the BBC researching consumer films for The One Show.

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