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Finance Watch publishes new policy brief „Insurance and discrimination – The importance of guaranteeing citizens full and equal access to the basic kinds of insurance“

Brussels, 25 February 2019 – Finance Watch released today its new policy brief on discriminatory practices in the insurance sector which finds that the right of European citizens to equal treatment is currently not being protected under financial services law.

The public interest NGO is urging EU policy makers to overcome the deadlock on the anti-discrimination directive which has remained blocked in the Council of the EU since 2008. It also supports the recent initiative from German Parliamentarians to call for more transparency on how insurance premiums are priced.

To combat current unfair practices and to give all European citizens access to the basic kinds of insurance, Finance Watch makes the following recommendations in its policy brief:

  • Prohibit ex-ante differentiated pricing.
    When differences in insurance premiums allow some consumers based on their identity characteristics to receive more economic benefits than others, it can be considered discriminatory and as such contradict European Union (EU) Charter of Fundamental Rights.
  • Ex-post differentiated pricing should only be calculated on the basis of actual damages.
    Calculating insurance premiums based on behavioural dimensions is discriminative.
  • Mutualisation of risks should remain the key principle in the insurance sector.
    Any practices that undermine this principle should be strictly limited to fair and relevant purposes. This risk of exclusion is harmful to society as a whole when it relates to insurance that plays a key role in allowing equal and full participation in society.
  • New technologies for data collection should be prohibited for any discriminatory use.
    They should be strictly dedicated to allowing discounts in premium prices and to maintaining access to a basic level of insurance protection.

 

Olivier Jérusalmy, Senior Research and Advocacy Officer at Finance Watch, said:

“In the light of the expeditious emergence of new technologies for advanced customer profiling, it is urgent to ensure that these developments will not pose a threat to the key principle of mutualisation, but rather provide access cover for customers with an otherwise prohibitive history of damages.

“Dividing potential customers into groups and excluding those that are determined to be too risky and therefore costly allows companies to maximise profits. However, this segmentation of customers is not compatible with the principle of mutualisation.

 “Access must be guaranteed to the basic kinds of insurance needed to fully and equally participate in society, in line with the right to an existence worthy of human dignity. Creating a mutualised system for these kinds of insurance, with ex-post pricing on the basis of the real cost of damages and claims made, can help to ensure this is the case.”

ENDS

For further information or interview requests, please contact:

Charlotte Geiger, Senior Communications Officer at Finance Watch, at charlotte.geiger@finance-watch.org or at 0032/(0)474331031.

 

NOTES FOR EDITORS

The current EU legislative project on discrimination that could impact on the pricing of insurance contracts is a proposal for a Council directive on implementing the principle of equal treatment outside the labour market, irrespective of age, disability, sexual orientation or religious belief, which aims at extending protection against discrimination through a horizontal approach. The directive has remained blocked in the Council of the EU since 2008. The latest progress report from the Austrian Presidency of the Council can be found here.

In 2011 the landmark ‘Test Achats’ case removed the exception of insurance using gender to price premiums in the EU. It was the first case where the EU fundamental right to equal treatment was explicitly enforced for financial services.

On 13 February 2019, a petition on transparency of insurance premiums has been submitted to the German Federal Ministry of Finance (Bundesministerium der Finanzen, BMF) by German Parliamentarians (more details here) who call for more transparency on the part of the insurance industry in determining the insurance premium to be paid in order to prevent arbitrary discrimination against insured persons. The BMF has now another five weeks to inform the Committee on Petitions whether and which regulations are planned.

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