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By Laura Suter | Published Jul 26, 2012

Protection firms quiet on pricing policies

Ageas has guaranteed its gender-based pricing for contracts requiring underwriting or medical tests until February next year, but other providers will not say if they will follow suit.

Making the first move among protection companies in the retail space to allow clients to take advantage of gender-based pricing before the ban takes place on 21 December, Ageas guaranteed that any applications submitted by 20 December will be subject to gender-based pricing. This effectively bypasses the deadline for all prices to be gender neutral.

The move means any applications needing a doctor’s report, a medical examination or underwriting will not miss out on the old-style rates, with the guarantee being in place for any applications submitted by 20 December and completed by the end of February 2013.

It is also a move few other firms are willing to replicate at this stage. PruProtect’s head of account development, Phil Jeynes, said the company is yet to decide on a policy, but “hasn’t ruled anything in or out”.

He said, “It is with the actuarial team at the moment, who are working out the best possible plans that are in the best interests of clients.”

Aviva is also waiting to confirm its position, dedicating a “huge amount” of resource to the decision and stressing that any move needed to be “legally squeaky clean”.

Ian Smart, head of product development and technical support at Bright Grey and Scottish Provident, said a split between providers’ stances could cause confusion. “Advisers will have to understand what each provider will accept and when each cut-off date arises,” he said.

He added the Treasury’s final response to the consultation paper, circulated by the ABI on 18 July, urges firms to seek their own legal advice.

While Ageas has sought legal advice on its guarantee, there is some concern that other firms’ lawyers could come up with a different interpretation of the law because it effectively extends gender-based pricing for an additional two months.

The Treasury’s response to the ECJ consultation on the gender ruling also casts Ageas’ promise into doubt, stating that any attempt to bypass the 21 December deadline “would clearly be contrary to the spirit of the judgment and is unlikely to be looked upon favourably by the European Commission or the courts”.

Laura.suter@ft.com

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