Captures the European Court of Justice quite nicely

[Update: based on reading the court\’s own press release, and the judgement, I\’ve revised my opinion. The law as it existed was a little murky and confused, but capable of being interpreted sanely. The judges, possibly due to actuarial incompetence, possibly due to intrinsic stupidity, or who knows exactly why, willfully decided to produce an insane decision, which is entirely their own fault.]

11 thoughts on “Captures the European Court of Justice quite nicely”

  1. If you think that banning sexual discrimination on pensions and insurance is wrong, you have to explain why banning sexual discrimination is right. If you think that banning sexual discrimination is right, you have to explain why a thousand other discriminations are OK – e.g. postcode, medical history ….

  2. Oops: ” you have to explain why banning sexual discrimination is right” should have been ” you have to explain why banning racial discrimination is right”.

  3. As per UKL’s comment, my own take on this matter is that the ruling is correct in law, but the directive itself is an ass.

    That said, the insurance industry has few grounds for complaint given that it doesn’t comply fully with the existing ruling – with the full connivance of HM Treasury, I might add.

  4. Is there anything to stop an insurance company selling over the internet from a place outside the EU and maintaining sensible underwirting policies? Clearly they still need boots on the ground in the UK to deal with accidents, and be registered here. But if the act of ‘discrimination’ is taking place outside the EU, what’s to stop them exporting hundreds of thousands of good jobs to India to do this?

  5. If an insurance co wants to be registered with the FSA, it probably has to agree that its policies are subject to the law of England & Wales.

    So, if a company wanted to do such a thing, its customers would have to accept that they were going ‘offshore’, and losing certain protections.

    This ruling could be quite good for the Channel Islands…

  6. CJ Nerd

    Thanks. Of course policies have to comply with the law of England and Wales, but if the sales organisation is outside the EU it has to comply with local laws. There could be a get-out here, but it might mean the loss of hundreds of thousands of EU jobs.

    I wonder, if the ECHR and ECJ keep taking the law into their own hands and making ever sillier decisions, whether they will eventually have enough rope to hang themselves. Or they could end up as the only people with jobs in the EU!

  7. If you think that banning sexual discrimination on pensions and insurance is wrong, you have to explain why banning racial discrimination is right

    This raises an interesting question. Say an ethnic group has a statistical tendency to die younger than the average, because of a long history of racial discrimination. In a competitive market with no anti-discrimination laws, a member of that group would, all else being equal, get a higher annuity than a member of a group with a longer-life span. Is it really right to pay them no more in annuities than those members of a racial group with a luckier history?

    I have read criticisms of the NZ superannuation system (a fixed rate from age 65) as being biased against Maori because of shorter life-spans.

    It’s not at all clear that banning racial discrimination is right, in the sense of abstract justice.

    Of course the other part of the problem is that men are about 50% of the population, so banning sexual discrimination has a much bigger effect on the other group’s premiums/annuities than banning a rule singling out a smaller percentage of the population.

  8. Chris @7, what laws are they taking into their own hands? Did you not read Unity’s analysis? The judges are merely interpreting the laws made by legislators and the judgement in this particular case appears to have been misreported.

  9. Bill,

    “If you think that banning sexual discrimination on pensions and insurance is wrong, you have to explain why banning sexual discrimination is right.”

    Nonsense. The law must explain nothing. That’s why it’s the law. The law is never in the black letters on the page, but it is almost always in the cracks that appear between them.

    Apart from that, this ruling’s a load of nonsense. It seems to erase the concept of gender from the law. The natural next step from would seem to be the banning of the terms ‘husband’ and ‘wife’, on the basis that they are discriminatory.

    It also runs a coach and horses through centuries’ worth of carefully crafted (and very insurer-friendly) British insurance law. Under our law, a contract for insurance is one ‘uberrimae fidei’, ‘of the utmost good faith’. That requirement for utmost good faith has given a great deal of latitude to insurers to tailor policies to their insureds’ particular needs/lifestyle choices/peccadilloes, etc. It helps if you have the resources to pay high premia, but the principle is still sound. Now that you can’t insure using gender as a benchmark when the benefits of doing so are so patent, on what grounds can you discriminate?

    Don’t want to seem ugly, but how long will it be before someone claims discrimination on the basis that they’ve been refused insurance because they’re HIV positive? Can’t be long, I would think, and this decision will have opened the door for them.

  10. @Tracy W: “It’s not at all clear that banning racial discrimination is right, in the sense of abstract justice. “

    “Discrimination” in these areas is essentially a political construct and is thus subject to all the whims, fancies and downright inanities of “political theory”. The insurance and annuity market is subject to actuarial theory, which has none of the above inconsistencies.

    Unfortunately, politics nearly always trumps common sense.

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