My perspective on the ECJ ruling on gender equality

On Tuesday this week, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that gender can no longer be considered a factor in determining the prices of goods or services as this contradicts the principle of gender equality.

Although much of the media coverage around this was about the right of insurance companies to charge women different premiums on their car insurance policies to men, it could actually eventually have positive implications for people with mental illness.

The current method for calculating insurance premiums is based on the use of risk assessments and statistics, such as the likelihood of any particular individual to make an insurance claim. For instance, it has been possible to discriminate against men on car insurance prices, as statistics show they are more likely to have car accidents and need to make a claim than women. The opposite is true for annuity provision on which women are more likely to claim and are therefore discriminated against.

As a result of the ECJ ruling, this method of cost-calculation will soon be replaced with a system in which gender discrimination on the basis of risk is illegal.

Whether you think this is right or wrong, it could potentially be excellent news for people with a psychiatric diagnosis if similar rulings on disability are to follow. Until now, these are the same principles that have been used, often spuriously, to justify insurance discrimination against people with a psychiatric diagnosis and learning disability, on grounds that they are more likely to claim. Hopefully, the ECJ will take the next obvious step and make a similar ruling outlawing this type of discrimination.

The ECJ’s ruling for gender equality in insurance premiums and benefits will come into effect on 21st December 2012. We will let you know if there is any progress regarding an ECJ ruling on psychiatric diagnosis or learning disability.