In a landmark ruling, European judges have outlawed the use of gender to set insurance premium rates.
The ruling will not come into force until 21 December 2012, but insurers in several sectors will no longer be allowed to offer cheaper insurance rates, or any other discrimination, based directly on gender.
Famously, some car insurance companies market exclusively to women, as statistics indicate women are less likely to be involved in accidents. Women also have a longer life expectancy than men, and this has created an imbalance in life insurance rates. On average men currently pay less than women for health and medical insurance cover.
The case was fought at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg and was brought by Test Achats, a consumer's association from Belguim. While this ruling promotes gender equality, it will likely create irritation among consumers who will be forced to pay higher premiums, as they no longer receive gender-related discounts.
Steve Foulsham, Technical Services Manager at the British Insurance Brokers' Association, said: 'Unisex rates will have to apply for motor insurance with the likelihood of an increase in premiums for females which could typically be up to 25% but in some cases more than 50%. However it's unlikely that premiums for male drivers will reduce much as their risk is still considerable.'