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Women drivers will be forced to swallow insurance hikes of up to £360 unless ministers make insurers soften the blow of a European court ruling, Labour warns today. Despite the fact they have 20 per cent fewer accidents on average, women will no longer be able to access cheaper rates of car insurance from the end of the year after the European Court of Justice ruled the long-established practice amounts to discrimination.

Shadow transport minister John Woodcock is urging ministers to put pressure on insurance companies not to round up rates to the average paid by men – currently a third, or £362, higher. Instead, insurers should make it easier for both men and women to access lower premiums by offering them the chance to fit new "black box" technology – known as telematics – that allows them to prove they are safe by recording how they drive.

Labour would consider forcing every insurance company to offer drivers at least one black box product unless they can voluntarily roll out the technology much more quickly over the next year. Currently there are only around 100,000 black boxes in the UK and most of the major providers don’t offer them. Greater availability of black boxes would also help responsible younger drivers, who are increasingly using black box insurers like the Co-op, InsuretheBox and Young Marmalade to prove that they are safer than the average for their age.

John Woodcock MP, Labour’s shadow transport minister said:

“At a time when motorists are already being squeezed by record fuel prices, women will be dismayed that out-of-touch ministers are not lifting a finger to defuse the insurance time bomb heading their way from Europe.

“Premiums for women are currently less because they tend to have fewer accidents. The government must not sit back and let the insurance industry round up to the highest level they think they can get away with – that could mean hikes of up to £360 for women.

“The ban on insurance by gender means women will need to find different ways to prove they are safe, but currently not enough insurers offer new black box technology that helps safer drivers get lower premiums.

“Unlike the do-nothing Conservative-led government, Labour would give insurance companies a year to put their house in order before considering forcing every insurer to offer at least one black box product to benefit safer drivers. That would benefit all responsible drivers – including women and younger people – who are being clobbered by sky-high premiums.”

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