May 8, 2009

The FT reported this week on the row over the government’s published Equality Bill, due for implementation this autumn, which may do little to help older people and could “raise costs for all.”

The new law is supposed to make it easier for older people to access competitive motor and travel insurance. It will prohibit insurers and other financial services providers from charging higher premiums or refusing cover “without justification.”

The government believes older consumers are being discriminated against by financial service providers. “One in five older people,” it claims, “is unsuccessful in getting quotations for motor insurance, travel insurance and car hire. The Equality Bill will make it unlawful to discriminate against someone aged 18 or over because of age.”

The ban aims to prevent the application of “broad brush” age bands by travel insurance providers, which can result in overnight premium increases for some. Monkeysupermarket.com’s claims: “Brits turning 66 will be shocked to see an overnight hike in the cost of their travel insurance, with no further medical evidence to suggest they might be at higher risk.” Broad brushes are a bugbear for older travellers and young drivers, the aggregator argues.

Critics suggest, however, that the law could backfire. “Insurers oppose unfair discrimination,” claims the Association of British Insurers. “But outlawing the use of age would also lead to higher insurance costs for all customers, as insurers would have insufficient information to fully assess the risk, and less choice for consumers.”

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