Insurance pricing to change soon, warns AA

By Catherine Burns
Business reporter, BBC News

Image caption,
Car insurance prices may fall for men but rise for women

The European Court of Justice is considering banning insurance companies from using gender to decide how much of a risk customers are.

If it does happen, it would mean young men would eventually see their premiums go down, and young women would end up paying extra.

But the AA is warning that, at least in the short-term, the confusion could lead to higher prices all round.

Currently, young women pay less because they are seen as safer drivers.

Statistics show men in their late teens and early 20s are more likely to speed, to be involved in drink driving accidents, and to claim on their policies.

Higher premiums

The cost of car insurance is already rising across the board. Last year, policies went up by an average of 33%.

It was even steeper for young drivers who saw a 58% increase.

So now, a woman under 22 is looking at paying an average of £1,682 a year. For a man of the same age, it is about £2,750.

The gaps tends to narrow to just a few pounds around the age of 30.

The court in Luxembourg is due to rule on this on 1 March.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) says a ban on gender pricing would hit young female drivers hardest.

Their premiums could rise by an average of 25%, but it could be as much as 50% in some cases.

Young men could eventually see their policies go down by around 10%.

"Not fair"

Ebeneezer Bolatiwa, a 21-year-old student, says the idea of such a change is "brilliant."

"The insurance policies now are too expensive, so I think this will benefit us," he says.

"Just because I am a male, I do not see why I should pay more."

However his friend, 22-year old Charlotte Griffiths, is less impressed.

"It's not fair really, because men have more accidents than women, which is why their price is higher in the first place, so there's no reason why we should pay more," she says.

'Not good news'

There is still uncertainty about how any possible change would affect drivers like Ebeneezer and Charlotte.

Image caption,
Car insurance prices may be pushed higher warns Simon Douglas of the AA

If this goes ahead, it would be like asking the insurance industry to rip up the rule book.

There is talk of a three-year transition period, but companies are worried about the possibility the Court will order them to introduce unisex policies immediately.

The AA's director of insurance, Simon Douglas says while not certain, it is very likely that gender-based pricing will be outlawed.

"In the short term, we don't think this is good news at all for anyone," he says.

"If they can't use [gender], [insurers] are going to take on more risk.

"As a consequence, they're going to put up their prices to mitigate that risk," he warns.

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