Bill expected to pass by Autumn 2010

The insurance industry has welcomed the publication of new legislation enforcing equality, but allowing exceptions when assessing risk on the basis of age.

The government published the final version of the Equalities Bill on Monday. The bill is expected to pass into law in autumn 2010 and aims to narrow the gap between rich and poor, require businesses to report on pay for men and women, outlaw age discrimination and strengthen existing anti-discrimination laws.

Exemptions include one that allows insurers to assess risk on the basis of age. The industry had feared that this exception could be excluded, which could have left it open to claims of discrimination.

Nick Starling, the ABI’s director of general insurance and health, said: “Outlawing the use of age would lead to higher insurance costs for all customers, as insurers would have insufficient information to fully assess the risk, and less choice for customers.” A spokesman for Biba said: “The age lobby has said that many consumers can't find cover due to their age. A website would often, for example, reject an 80-year-old seeking travel insurance.

“Due to the commoditisation of insurance and rise of the internet, people don’t realise that insurance brokers can easily cover older travellers or younger drivers at a fair price.”

Biba is lobbying the Treasury and the government equalities office for a signposting system so that any insurance provider that has no expertise or suitable product for a certain age group has to pass on the enquiry to someone who can help (rather then being forced to insure the client).