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Insurers Can’t Be Gender-|Biased, EU Adviser Says

(CN) - Insurance companies shouldn't be able to charge different rates for men and women, an adviser to Europe's high court determined Thursday.

Advocate General Juliana Kokott advised the European Union's Court of Justice that an EU directive allowing insurance providers to consider gender as a risk factor in calculating insurance premiums and benefits violates the principle of equal treatment for provision of goods and services.

A Belgian consumer organization and two individuals challenged the exception to equal treatment, which the European Commission instituted in a 2004 directive.

Adviser Juliana Kokott emphasized the importance of gender equality as a fundamental principle of the European Union, and the significance of anti-discrimination policies in carrying this out.

She noted that the insurance exception to equal treatment was justified merely by statistical correlation and not a clear biological difference.

Life expectancy is more influenced by social and economic factors, such as work, family, diet, and consumption and leisure habits, Kokott said. And because gender is an inherent factor, like race, it is "extremely inappropriate" to link risks to such inborn qualities, she added.

Kokott said the practice of allowing insurance providers to consider gender as a risk factor is incompatible with the principle of equal treatment and, as such, should be declared invalid.

Although advisers' opinions are not binding, the Court of Justice usually rules in line with their recommendations.

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