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The real winners and losers of the gender directive

Male and female toilet signs

Our latest research suggests that some people aren’t reaping the expected benefits of the gender directive, while others have seen insurance premiums  rocket – in some cases, by more than 50%.

The European Court of Justice’s ruling against insurers using gender as a factor in pricing products came into force last December.

But we carried out some early indicative research tracking car insurance, life insurance and annuity rates from September 2012 to January 2013, to try and see the impact of the ruling on premiums. Unfortunately, we found that all was not as it should have been.

Increases, not equality

Before the ruling happened, crystal-ball gazing predicted that premiums would equalise, but that some groups – mostly women – would end up worse off. For example, young women were expected to be about 40% worse off when buying car insurance. However, our tracking of four providers found 20-year-old women were actually 65% worse off.

Meanwhile, men of the same age were only 7% better off. This shows that, far from equalising, premiums actually met at the higher end of the market. The same was true for 55-year-olds, whose premiums increased across the board, for both men and women.

It was a similar story for life insurance. We tracked market averages for eight scenarios and found that for a 40-year-old buying £100,000 of life insurance to cover a 25-year term, premiums rose by 20% for women and fell by just 3% for men. So once again, they met way above the middle point.

And although women were the ‘winners’ in terms of annuities, with income rates for a 65-year-old woman buying a conventional annuity dropping by just 2% (compared with a 6% drop for men), our tracking seems to suggest that in the majority of cases, people were worse off.

Insurers don’t lose out

The gender directive was always going to create winners and losers, but our early analysis shows that in some cases, the only winners appear to be the insurers.  Concerns were voiced before the ruling kicked in around insurers potentially using the ruling as a chance to push premiums up, and our tracking suggests that this could be occurring. However, it’s early days – and I hope that once the ruling has bedded down, premiums may settle at more equal levels.

Whilst I accept that other factors such as economic conditions and increasing longevity may have forced insurers’ hands with pricing, there’s no denying that many people in the market for insurance are losing out. Have you seen your insurance premiums increase? If so, will you be taking measures to get a better deal?


I have to admit I have been surprised by the lack of reaction to the gender directive which fundamentally flies against the essence of insurance based on risk. If I may be so bold can I ask what whether Which? considered it a campaigning issue?

In a mad spirit of fairness and human rights I await the news that all humans no matter what their lifestyle or age will be covered for the same premium be it household, life or driving. Insulating people from true risk costs is a bizarre way of trying to make people responsible for their choices.

We are already seeing the Government trying to spread flood risk premiums across the general household insurance market rather than ban building on flood plains.or institute major flood prevention works.


My wife’s car insurance premium – just renewed with the same insurer with no changes – fell by around 7%.
As I am sure has been voiced elsewhere, this “equality” seems quite illogical. Insurance – whether car, life or whatever – is about an assessment of risk. If females present less of a risk than males, the insurance cost should be less. Can anyone tell me what I have not understood?


Hi there – the use of gender in setting insurance premiums and annuity rates isn’t an area we’re planning to campaign on, but we will be monitoring how companies respond to the new rules to check they don’t use the gender directive as an excuse to push up overall prices.


The basis of insurance is risk, so if you ban insurers from using a significant factor in some areas in assessing risk – in this case gender – then you will be expecting a distorted market. How do you then assess that, when there is a lack of logic involved? The new rules seem to expect women to subsidise men.
I would expect insurers to somehow still take account of gender risk in an indirect way, and therefore a simple comparison of whether they comply with the new rule may be tricky.
I think Which? should have campaigned against abolishing gender risk as it seems to me to be unfair on females – discriminatory.


Hi Rachael,

I think you should campaign against this. The reason we have been lumbered with this inequity is because Test Achats (which is the Belgium Consumers Association) queried Belgium’s implementation of the 2004 Gender Directive. The European Court of Justice, in agreement with the Belgium Consumers Association, ruled that the opt-out for Insurance Companies, allowing them to include gender in the process of assessing risk, “was not compatible with the principles of equality guaranteed in European legislation”.

Pah! What a hopeless cop-out! Does that mean that a man must include the risk of having to have a hysterectomy included in some general health policy, because that would have to be included in a woman’s general health policy? Or a woman, testicular cancer? It is all nonsense.

It has been shown that gender is a risk factor in many areas. The fact that a Consumers Association has successfully argued against that has resulted in increasing unfairness in the insurance market, in a gender-specific way!

Gee, Belgium, thanks.


Rachel, did Which? not get involved in any way at the consultation stage?


Hi Malcolm R, Which? didn’t get involved at the consultation stage – but as Rachael mentioned, we will be keeping our eye on how companies respond to the new directive.

Malc.Moore says:
17 February 2013

What a pity the Gender Directive not cover the outrageous fees charged in admin fees to both sexes when one changes his/her car.One expects to pay more insurance if the car is a higher risk&much newer and of higher value but if its same car same value 1or2years younger £41.00 is an awe-full for someone to just type a few changes.How insurers get RICH RIPPING-OFF innocent drivers.