EU Court Ruling To Cost Female Drivers

Young female drivers in Europe may not have felt discriminated against when insurance companies checked out their figures — that is, the figures showing they're less likely than male counterparts to get in a traffic accident.

Nor have men been complaining that their pension payouts are higher than women's because statistically they don't live as long.

Insurance companies were exempted from an EU directive that says men and women must have equal access to goods and services. But after a challenge from a Belgian consumer group, the European Court of Justice decided to throw out the exemption.

Auto insurers warn that the change coming next year could drive up women's premiums by 25 percent. Men's pension contributions will likely rise, too.

"This is an important step toward putting the fundamental right of gender equality into practice," said Viviane Reding, the European Union's justice commissioner.

Conservative MP Sajjad Karim calls it "a setback for common sense — utter madness."

Insurance companies insist it's bad for them and customers to revamp the way premiums are calculated. Malcolm Tarling of the Association of British Insurers says charging women and men different rates isn't bias — it's business.

"Insurers don't discriminate on the basis of someone's gender. They assess the risk, taking into account lots of different factors that are relevant to whether or not that risk is going to happen," Tarling said.

After years of lobbying against such a change, insurers have no recourse because the ruling cannot be appealed.

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