A drive towards equality

In light of the of the recent EU Court of Justice ruling regarding driver insurance rates, Faye Docherty analyses the issue and looks at students’ opinions on the topicAt the start of this month, the EU Court of Justice ruled that insurance companies could no longer charge men more than women for motor insurance.  This decision, which will be implemented on the December 21st 2012, puts an end to a heavily discussed and debated topic.The topic, which has divided both men and women’s opinions for years, questions whether the fact that women currently pay less for car insurance is sexist. The court decided that the question in hand fundamentally breached EU law.The EU Court of Justice ruled that this was simply another case of discrimination and therefore must be regulated. The EU's Justice Commissioner’s Vice-President Viviane Reding, said: “All customers must be treated equally. This is a matter of respect for fundamental rights.”The ruling will mean that the gap between insurance rates for men and women will close with women paying more and men less. However, statistically women continue to prove themselves to be better and safer drivers, a fact that has been reflected with the current rates offered to them.As Mike Kemp, Chief Executive of the Irish Insurance Federation, says: “At present female drivers benefit from discounted rates for their motor insurance because of their better claims record.” For men under the age of 30, the difference between their premium and that of their female counterparts is staggering.Men can pay anywhere up to 100 per cent more than women.  Yet once men and women reach the age of 35, the gap in premiums narrows between the two.  This shows that now more than ever, young male drivers are perceived as the main risk on Irish roads, irrespective of whether members of this demographic adhere to the stereotype.Kemp further argues that “insurers have always priced risk objectively based on statistical evidence and there is no reason why this process should be interfered with… removing the ability to take gender into account where relevant will ultimately have negative consequences for consumers across the board.”Many insurers are already predicting other areas will be affected by this new ruling, such as life insurance and pensions.  David Hughes, Director of Irish insurance company Get Cover & Company, explains that insurance companies that are “offering specialised motor insurance products for women will find the change most challenging”.Many other factors are considered when calculating motor insurance and Hughes confirms this trend will continue.  These factors include the type, age and size of the vehicle, the age and occupation of the driver and the location the vehicle is used. Get Cover & Company, along with many other insurance companies, is currently reviewing its rating structures in light of the ruling.Although Hughes claims Get Cover & Company have not experienced any complaints or queries on the matter so far, he tells The University Observer that they are still confident they can “find another way to provide value and fairness” to their customers.Out on campus, it seemed that a number of UCD students felt the EU Court’s ruling was a step in the right direction. Garvin Lawlor, a second-year Commerce student, says: “I think it’s fair enough that everyone should have to pay the same amount for insurance because it’s unfair guys are being tackled, as not all guys are bad drivers.”However, Lawlor does note that many young male drivers don’t help their stereotype as they try to prove themselves and impress the people around them. He continues: “That kind of macho male idealism definitely comes into play.”Alison Denver, a third-year Archaeology and Geology student, agrees that although men being charged more is unfair, they have in fact “brought it on themselves”.However, Fegal Bannon, a second-year Science student, disagrees with the EU Court’s ruling.  “It doesn’t sound very fair,” he says. “When you look at the stats, women have fewer accidents and if you are treating them the way it should be, they should get charged less as they have less accidents, so it’s not fair really.  It’s not fair on women as they deserve to pay less.”It is evident that this is a divisive issue and is one that young student drivers, with the constraints of the current economic climate on their shoulders, are concerned about. Whether or not you believe men have brought higher insurance rates upon themselves, it will no longer be a concern from December 21st 2012.Should all men have to deal with the consequences that a minority of boy racers cause or are we being fundamentally sexist? Whatever your opinion is, the court has ruled.