A Hair Discriminatory: Dutch Salons Urged to Drop Pricing by Gender

UTRECHT, Netherlands (CN) – A Dutch human rights court held Wednesday that, by charging women more than men, hairdressers are guilty of discrimination.

Winnie Hänschen just wants a quick and easy haircut. But, she says, “I have to pay more than a man at many barbershops. That’s not fair, is it?” The Netherlands Institute for Human Rights has agreed and determined that the difference in price constitutes discrimination based on gender.

Image by kaleido-dp from Pixabay

Hänschen brought the complaint before the institute, which offers nonbinding legal advice based on Dutch human rights legislation, after visiting two hair salons and discovering substantially different prices for men’s and women’s haircuts.

During a hearing in February, representatives from hair salons Toni & Guy and Cosmos defended their pricing structures. “Ninety-eight percent of Cosmo customers want the luxury experience,” said Cosmo CEO Merel Venneman.

The hair salons argued women’s services take longer and thus must be more expensive. “We don’t want them to go out the door with wet hair,” Venneman said.

But Hänschen says her haircuts generally take 15 or 20 minutes. “I don’t want all of the extras,” she said.

The three-member panel of the institute’s advisory board found “the lack of freedom of choice for women forces them to choose longer and more elaborate treatments, with a higher price, even if their haircut does not require a more elaborate treatment.”

It isn’t only the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights which finds pricing by gender problematic. A 2008 report by the European Commission, the EU’s regulatory body, found differences in prices for hairdressing services are “indefensible when the obvious alternative exists of pricing services on the basis of the effort required to be expended on them.”

That is what the Dutch watchdog institute recommends. Both salons should “describe on their price lists the content and elements of the treatments offered and to link the rates only to those.”

Hänschen says she’s curious as to what happens. While not binding, recommendations from the institute are voluntarily followed about 80% of the time.

Neither salon was available for comment. On Tuesday, the Dutch Hairdressing Organization recommended closing salons as hairdressers cannot maintain a five-foot distance from their clients as is currently required in the Netherlands to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19.

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