Motor insurers slammed for gay couple discrimination

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Leading insurance companies are under fire for discriminating against gay couples by not offering them the same discounts on motor policies available to married drivers. Tesco Car Insurance, a subsidiary of the supermarket group, accused rivals of treating same-sex couples unfairly.

Insurers offer cut-price cover to drivers who put spouses on their motor insurance. At many companies, the cost of putting a spouse on a policy is 15 per cent cheaper than it would be to add any other driver.

However, while a handful of insurers, including Tesco, have extended this offer to gay couples, most have failed to do so, despite the introduction of new laws this week enabling same-sex partners to register their relationships as civil partnerships.

Tesco named rivals such as Sainsbury's and esure as among those offering discounts only to married couples. Allan Burns, the head of insurance at the company, said: "The Civil Partnerships Act redresses an imbalance in equality and the whole motor industry must do the same."

Malcolm Tarling, of the Association of British Insurers (ABI), said: "Firms offer discounts to married couples because claims experience shows people in long-term stable relationships are better risks."

Tesco said premiums should reflect policy-holders' risk profile - including whether they were in a stable relationship - rather than who they were with.

A spokesman for Compass, an independent financial adviser that specialises in the gay community, said itwould meet with the ABI and pressure group Stonewall next week, to discuss the issue. "We must tackle this discrimination, particularly in light of the Civil Partnerships Act," he said.

Adrian Webb, of esure said: "It is too early to know whether same-sex married couples will exhibit the same reduction in risk that traditional couples have. A factor that reduces the risk of married couples who drive is the high proportion of them who have children."

A spokesman for Sainsbury's said: "We need to review the risk profile of same sex couples."