Legislation expected early in 2009

Insurers will not be allowed to discriminate unfairly against policyholders with respect to age or gender, under the government’s proposed Equality Bill.

Harriet Harman, Minister for Women and Equality, last week proposed new measures in the bill, which will make it illegal for public and private sector bodies to unfairly discriminate on grounds including age, gender and race.

However the government has said that insurers and other service providers will still be able to discriminate on the grounds of age and gender where there is a justification to do so – for example, actuarial evidence.

But the proposed measures could still affect the pricing and availability of insurance products, particularly motor and travel.

Biba welcomed the proposals but warned of the possible implications for discounted premiums targeted at specific age groups.

The government stated its intention to “make sure we only outlaw unjustified discrimination without unintentionally stopping things that are beneficial to particular age groups” in its publication Framework for a Fairer Future – the Equality Bill.

Biba and the ABI are discussing what implications the bill will have on the insurance sector. The proposal is currently out to public consultation, with legislation expected early in 2009.

A spokesman for Norwich Union said: “Norwich Union takes our responsibility to promote fairness and transparency seriously, and we are working with the government and ABI to ensure a proportionate outcome is reached for both firms and