Insurance companies face another equality broadside that will lead to a major shake-up of the industry as the government proposes to ban discrimination against someone because of their age when selling goods or services.
This makes the week a double whammy for insurance firms who are already reeling under the gender ruling from the European Court of Justice that outlaws pricing financial products at different rates for men and women.
Insurance companies can still consider age when assessing risk and deciding prices under the new ruling, which takes effect from April 2012.
However, they must base their decisions on solid evidence rather than simply imposing a blanket ban. Insurers will also be asked to help people find an alternative provider if they are unable to provide cover for age-related reasons.
Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone said: “It’s high time we put an end to outdated stereotypes based on age and recognised the valuable contributions that people of all ages can make to our society and economy. When older people are turned away from the market place through unfair treatment, the economy misses out on increased business and revenue.
“These proposals will ensure that doesn’t happen, providing new protection and support for people of all ages. We will allow businesses to continue to provide the age-specific services that many people of all ages benefit from every day.”
Age discrimination in the workplace has been illegal since 2006. The decision to extend this ban to the provision of goods and services follows the announcement earlier this year that the government plans to phase out the default retirement age, which means people are no longer forced to retire at 65 years old if they don’t want to.
The gender ruling comes in to affect from December 2012 and forces insurance companies to apply a unisex price structure rather than offering the same polices at different costs to men and women.