Your Money: New Act will aid disabled drivers

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While most drivers face rising car insurance premiums, Britain's 1.5 million disabled motorists should find it easier and cheaper to get insurance when the new Disability Discrimination Act comes into force in December.

Previously, most disabled motorists have been refused cover by the main insurers, or had their premiums loaded to outrageously high levels. For example, a 25-year-old wheelchair user could expect to be charged four times as much as an able-bodied driver. Another way of discriminating has been to refuse cover to vehicles that have been adapted in any way.

But from December 2 companies will have to prove any loading of premiums due to disability is statistically valid, based on past claims data or acceptable medical evidence. And they will not be able to refuse cover simply because someone is disabled.

Most insurers don't have data to justify loadings because they have declined to insure the disabled in the past. So most will have to drop their rates to standard levels or face legal action.

However, disabled people's groups are sceptical about the efficacy of the Act. Cases against insurers for discrimination will be heard in chambers at the county court. But county court trials set no precedents, so the Disabled Drivers Association claims any punishment handed down will no more effective than getting a parking ticket.

The association advises individuals to write to the appropriate publication, or persuade their MPs to raise the matter in the House of Commons and shame the insurer by having its name and transgression recorded in Hansard.

In the longer term, once insurers gather what they consider to be sufficient information about disabled people's claims records, they will probably start to look at loading their premiums again.

Another way for insurers to get round the act will be to load the premiums on vehicles used mainly by the disabled. Andrew Manciocchi from disabled specialists Fish Insurance says the American people carrier Chrysler Voyager is likely to suffer this fate.

q Insurers providing products aimed at the disabled include Fish Insurance (01772 724442), Chartwell (0181 958 3135), and Hexagon (01633 250222); Privilege has a special policy called Mobility Master (0990 998800).

q Dido Sandler works for `Financial Adviser'.