Age discrimination remains rife in the insurance industry according to research by Age Concern and Help the Aged. Half of motor insurers and a third of travel insurers automatically exclude people aged 80 plus seeking quotes, irrespective of their health status. The research shows that while the situation for those at the higher end of the age spectrum is extreme, those in other age groups also experience ageism.
Access to insurance becomes increasingly patchy once someone hits 65, with some companies refusing to provide insurance quotes to people in the 65 to 79 age bracket. Insurers argue that older people cost more in claims, but with no up to date industry statistics that break down claims to this detail, and few insurers even trying to justify their actions with their own claims data, whether this is true or thinly disguised ageism is a moot point. Refusing products to older people places an unacceptable restriction on people's lives. Problems obtaining insurance cover can mean people are prevented from visiting friends and family and enjoying holidays abroad.
The charity hoped that a new Equality Bill would ban all such age discrimination, but the insurance industry successfully lobbied to add a late exemption to allow insurers to continue using upper age limits and to refuse quotes. Andrew Harrop at Age Concern and Help the Aged fumes: “To allow insurers to continue legally discriminating against people on the basis of age is profoundly unjust. It defies belief that a business is still able to refuse to deal with someone because of the date on their birth certificate. Automatic age limits completely undermine the message the Equality Bill is supposed to be sending."
If the Equality Bill becomes law in 2012, insurers will be allowed to refuse to quote on any type of insurance or offer higher prices, based on age, infirmity or illness. A weak concession will force all insurers who decline to quote for age or infirmity on motor or travel insurance to suggest where the customer can get cover. There is nothing to stop insurers quoting extortionate prices to deter customers.