The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Mr Alan Shatter T.D. today announced publication of the general scheme of a Bill to provide in Irish law for the mandatory introduction within the EU of unisex premiums and benefits in insurance. In Ireland, this will involve changes to current practices in the areas of motor insurance, life assurance, critical illness cover, income protection cover, and private annuities and pensions.

Minister Shatter said, "This change has its origin in a gender equality case brought by a consumer rights group before the courts in Belgium in 2007. The Court of Justice of the EU upheld their complaint in 2011 and ruled that Article 5(2) of Directive 2004/113/EC, which enables Member States to maintain an exemption from the rule of unisex premiums and benefits in insurance, must be considered to be invalid upon the expiry of an appropriate transitional period. The Court determined that this period should end on 21 December 2012. Ireland is obliged to implement the decision of the Court. "

The Minister also launched an information note for consumers on the new rules on the permitted use of gender by insurance providers, which are to come into force in December 2012

The information note explains the mandatory introduction within the EU of unisex premiums and benefits. In Ireland, this will involve changes to current practices in the areas of motor insurance, life assurance, critical illness cover, income protection cover, and private annuities and pensions. Sources of further information and advice and the redress mechanisms available in the event of disputes are also outlined. The information note will be made widely available through the existing public information channels available to the Government Departments, public sector bodies and insurance sector organisations concerned.

The Minister expressed his thanks to the industry bodies - the Irish Insurance Federation, the Irish Brokers Association, the Professional Insurance Brokers Association and the Society of Actuaries in Ireland - who contributed to the preparation of this advice for consumers, along with the Departments of Finance, Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, and of Social Protection, the Central Bank, the National Consumers Agency, the Citizen Information Board, the Pensions Board, the Equality Authority, and the Financial Services Ombudsman's Bureau.

The general scheme and information note are available on the Department of Justice and Equality website: www.justice.ie

http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/PB12000290

 http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/PB12000296

31 October 2012

ENDS

Note for Editors

In its decision of 1 March 2011, in case C-236/09 (the ‘Test-Achats’ ruling) taken by a Belgian consumer rights organisation, the Court of Justice of the EU declared that Article 5(2) of Council Directive 2004/113/EC of 13 December 2004, implementing the principle if equal treatment between men and women in the access to and supply of goods and services, was invalid with effect from 21 December 2012. This decision is binding on all Member States of the EU.

The effect of this ruling is that Ireland is obliged to prohibit by law the selling of private insurance products which differentiate by gender on price or benefits and to have such provisions in force on or before 21 December 2012. The unisex rule will apply to all contracts concluded for the first time as and from that date. It also applies to agreements between parties as and from 21 December 2012 to extend contracts concluded before that date and which would otherwise have expired.

Gender-sensitive calculation of premiums and benefits are currently only permitted in Ireland under the Equal Status Acts 2000 to 2011 in the areas of life assurance (both life cover and mortgage protection), critical illness cover, income protection cover (PHI), annuities, pensions and motor insurance. Such differences in treatment must be related to the assessment of risk and supported by evidence.

Complaints of gender discrimination under the Equal Status Acts may be referred to the Equality Tribunal, which investigates or mediates claims of unlawful discrimination under the equality legislation, or to the Circuit Court.

Consumers may contact the Equality Authority for information and advice about the Equal Status Acts. The Equality Authority is the statutory body set up to work towards the elimination of unlawful discrimination, to promote equality of opportunity and to provide information to the public on the equality legislation.