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Insurers avoid a gender blow

Some insurers have been disgruntled with their trade body lately but I would expect the majority to be singing its praises this week, or at least be mildly impressed.

Prompted by the EU¹s gender directive, which was transposed into English law in April, the Association of British Insurers has published data tables to allow insurers to continue to use gender as a factor when pricing policies.

Under the new legislation, insurers can only take gender into account if the differences are based on accurate and regularly updated published data. So the ABI hopped to it as did Continuous Mortality Investigation, releasing tables for life insurance, income protection, critical illness and private medical insurance as well as annuities and car insurance.

The ABI says its data, which illustrates industry aggregates, provides evidence of differences in claims patterns between genders therefore proving the relevance of gender in the insurance underwriting process.

An ABI spokesman says: ³The insurance industry is against unfair discrimination of any kind and does not practice it. But it is legitimate for companies to set prices, levels of cover and benefits according to a number of factors which together determine the relative risk that any given customer poses. The gender directive and the UK¹s transposition of it recognised this and charged the insurance industry with compiling and publishing data to show the relevance of gender in making underwriting decisions. This has now been done. As a result, customers will continue to be able to benefit from fair pricing and a range of products which suit their needs at affordable prices.²

In other news, MetLife is looking to expand its presence in the UK protection market by offering life insurance, critical illness cover and income protection through a number of new partnerships.

The firm, which specialises in annuities, currently offers payment protection insurance through Citigroup branches in the UK and some areas of Europe. But it wants to bulk up its protection range through a number of direct distribution deals.

Managing director Colin Moody says: ³Our plan is to build up our presence in the protection markets in the UK as well as in Europe. We want to offer a full range of protection products and we plan to do this by building up our client base and investing in these relationships. We are in decent talks with half a dozen firms, all of which have significant distribution.²

Advisers have expressed disappointment the firm has chosen to go the direct route instead of utilising their expertise, but the fact it is moving away from simply offering PPI has got to be welcomed.

On the subject of that ghastly product, the FSA has launched free PPI comparison tables on its consumer website, moneymadeclear.co.uk, in a bid to help people shop around to get a better deal.

The PPI tables are updated daily and feature single and regular premium policies as well as giving information on the cost of PPI and details of exclusions and how pre-existing conditions are handled.

FSA director for financial capability Chris Pond says: ³Improving the PPI market and the deal consumers receive is one of the FSA¹s top priorities and central to this is enhancing consumer power in this market. PPI is almost always optional and consumers need to consider their own financial circumstances when deciding to purchase it and make sure they are clear about what will be covered.²

But there is no mention of income protection. If ³improving the deal consumers receive is one of the FSA¹s top priorities² surely it is worth flagging up?

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