Wednesday, March 9, 2011

HMG on that car insurance decision

Not sure what to make of the sudden explosion of International Women's Day events and celebrations in Britain. (I do hope, by the way, that none of this blog's readers will feel the need to make the obvious and uninteresting comment about there not being an International Men's Day.) Naturally, given the background, I grew up with knowledge of the festival and it is still taken very seriously where there is also a Men's Day, officially known as Defender of the Fatherland Day. Until recently, however, people in Britain (unless they had links of some kind with Russia or formerly the Soviet Union and its various satellites) looked blankly at me when I mentioned it.

As ever, the House of Lords led the way, as I noted last year: on March 8 all Starred Questions were about women's issues and there was a general celebratory air about the place.

Roughly speaking, the same thing happened this year as well though Credit Unions crept in, somehow, and there was less of an effort to make sure that women peers spoke. Then again, most of them do not need any special promotion. Of course, I do not speak of Baroness Warsi, who is an embarrassment to us all, men and women.

The question of the ECJ decision about car insurance for women came up under the heading of Insurance: Gender Discrimination. The problem here is not that if insurance companies "discriminated" it was because of certain business decisions based on what they thought was adequate evidence. (So, please, do not write to tell me about terrible women drivers you know. It is of very little concern to me and, in any case, that is not the point.)

Baroness Verma's explanation as to what happened summed up, once again, HMG's helplessness in matters of some importance as this decision will have all sorts of ramifications in the pension and insurance business:
My Lords, the UK Government, along with a number of other member states, the European Council and the Commission made oral and written representations to the European Court of Justice during legal proceedings. The representations argued that, rather than preventing true equality, the article in question ensured that different cases could be treated differently, thereby ensuring true equality. However, the court has ruled that the practice of using gender as a factor in the calculation of premiums and benefits must cease, with effect from 21 December 2012.
Subsequent questions and comments tried to elicit some assurance from the noble Lady that HMG will actually try to do something beyond "assisting" the insurance industry with its "can-do" attitude to the problem. Well, it is hardly their problem.

Oh and in case anyone thought of getting round the problem somehow, the Baroness could assure everyone "that any insurance sold in the EU, whether or not it is from outside the EU, will be applicable under these rules". Then again, where there is a will to competition, there is a way of getting round silly decisions which this country is bound to obey as long as it stays in the EU.


  1. Funnily enought Helen I thought like you. Then I thought some more and while I strongly resent the ECJ interference I am tending to think maybe their decision was actually right.
    My train of thought is here.

  2. Not really the point, is it, Woodsy42. There must be a reason why insurance companies made the decisions they made. They are not, after all, in business for their health.

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