Older people will continue to pay higher prices for insurance after ministers decided that age discrimination laws would not be applied to financial services.
Campaigners reacted angrily to the Government's announcement, which ignored complaints that pensioners suffered discrimination when buying insurance, especially for travel.
Theresa May, the Home Secretary, yesterday announced which parts of the Equality Act would take effect in October, promising to improve the treatment of older people through measures that include a ban on age discrimination in the NHS. However, the Government proposed a "broad exception" from the law for companies providing financial services, allowing them to go on using age in assessing risk and setting prices.
The decision was made despite a consultation in which groups including the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Age UK and the National Pensioners' Convention voiced their opposition.
In a formal response to the consultation, the Home Office dismissed complaints over higher insurance premiums as "anecdotal in nature", which did not "permit general conclusions to be drawn about the conduct of the industry".
Many complaints about the financial services sector "reveal a perception of discrimination rather than unfair and harmful practices", it added, suggesting that the financial sector should do more to explain its practices to consumers.
The Home Office concluded: "Despite the concerns expressed by some, there is insufficient evidence of harmful age discrimination in this area to justify increased legislative intervention."
Campaign groups insist that companies offering financial services are unfairly charging higher prices to older customers simply because of their age.
Michelle Mitchell of Age UK called on ministers to think again. "Age UK now calls for the Government to extend the ban to financial services to stop insurance companies and banks denying their services to older people for no reason other than their age," she said.
Mrs May insisted that the Coalition was striking the right balance between business and consumers' interests. "This legislation will be targeted, fair and proportionate," she said.
"The vast majority of businesses and organisations will be able to continue to operate as usual and certain areas will be exempt from the ban altogether."
Industry analysts say pensioners could have to pay almost double for travel insurance this summer due to rising charges at hospitals overseas and the falling value of the pound. The rising price of aviation fuel has also increased the cost of flying an ill person home.
Article from the Telegraph