Age-specific holidays under threat from Equalities Bill

Age-specific holidays under threat from Equalities Bill

Time is running out for the industry to fight government plans that could spell the end of age-specific holidays and agents selling insurance.

The Equalities Bill plans to extend age discrimination regulations to include goods and services. This would mean services provided by agents and operators – ranging from insurance to holidays – would be unable to have any age-related restrictions.

According to the Association of British Insurers, this could spell disaster as agents may be unable to sell insurance because of the extra high costs and regulation involved.

There was also concern that the legislation could mean certain types of holidays, such as those for the over-50s and the 18-30s market could become taboo as they would be considered discriminatory.

However, this looks as if it may be resolved after  direct-sell operator Saga Holidays lobbied over the legislation. The government has agreed to consider exemptions for group holidays.

Saga Holidays head of communications Paul Green said: “The crucial thing is that time is running out. We are confident we have won the political argument about age-related holidays.

He said the company had met 120 MPs who all agreed with Saga’s views.

He added the next challenge is how this will affect the booking conditions of operators that have age restrictions in their booking policies.

For example, operators could not prevent a group of 18-year-olds booking a chalet, even if it was against the owner’s wishes.

ABI assistant director markets and regulation Kate Carr warned agents: “You may have to offer insurance to an elderly skier or sell to no one. The industry doesn’t understand the consequences.”

An ABTA spokeswoman said selling insurance based on risk should not be changed. “We will be looking at it and if there is an impact on agents we will be taking action.”

A Government Equalities Office spokesperson said: “People have told us they feel they face unjustified bans or massive unreasonable hikes in fees because, for example, they hit their 70th birthday. We are looking at all the options before making any decisions.”

Timeline: Equalities Bill

  • 2005: The government  committed to review discrimination law.
  • 2007: A consultation paper ‘A better Framework for Fairness: Proposals for an Equality Bill for Great Britain’ was published.
  • 2008: The Equality Bill was announced in the Queen’s Speech.
  • 2009: The Equality Bill is due to be introduced to parliament.

Comment: Association of British Insurers

“Travel agents may be forced to stop selling travel insurance if proposed anti-discrimination legislation becomes law. 

“There would be severe consequences for distributors of travel insurance, including agents. Travel agents are
the single largest distributor of travel insurance, accounting for approximately 25% of all policies sold.

"The systems used to price travel insurance are simple, with most imposing maximum age limits of, typically, 65. The cost of changing these systems to enable travel agents to
provide insurance to customers of all ages could be prohibitively expensive.

"Ultimately, it could mean selling travel insurance is no longer economically viable for travel agents.”

This is an extract from a comment from Association of British Insurers assistant director markets and regulation Kate Carr

Homepage image: Eric Vidal / Rex Features

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