ESA – Provision of Insurance

Your Rights

Fact sheets

What is discrimination in insurance?

Discrimination in insurance means being treated less favourably in regard to obtaining insurance than another person, on the basis of one of the nine ‘protected grounds’ listed inthe Equal Status Acts 2000-2018.

The law makes it illegal to discriminate with regards to insurance on any of the following protected grounds:

  • Gender (male, female, transgender, non-binary)
  • Civil status (single, married, separated, divorced, widowed, in a civil partnership)
  • Family status (such as pregnant, parent or carer)
  • Sexual orientation (such as heterosexual, LBGTQ+)
  • Religion (including religious background and those who have no belief)
  • Age (for people aged 17 or over who have a driver’s licence and are buying motor insurance)
  • Disability (intellectual, mental or physical)
  • Race (colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin)
  • Membership of the Traveller community
  • Receiving rent supplement, housing assistance, or any payment under the Social Welfare Acts

This means that, for example, an insurance company cannot offer you a higher quote for motor insurance simply because of your gender or because you have a disability unless it falls within an exemption under the Equal Status Acts (see below).

Types of discrimination in insurance

The law sets our four types of discrimination based on the protected grounds listed above. The most common types are direct and indirect.  

  • Direct discrimination is when you are treated less favourably because of one of the protected grounds. For example, it may be age discrimination if an insurance company refuses to offer a motor policy to anyone aged over 70.
  • Indirect discrimination happens when a rule puts a person in any of the nine protected groups at a particular disadvantage compared to someone who is not in that protected group. For example, where a travel policy that excludes people with a pre-existing medical condition also excludes anyone who is living with other types of disability.
  • Discrimination by imputation is when an insurer mistakenly assumes you have a condition or characteristic on the protected grounds list, but you do not. For example, where an insurance company quotes a higher premium to someone who they assume has a disability but who does not.
  • Discrimination by association is when an insurer treats you less favourably because of your association with another person who falls within one of the protected grounds. For example, where an insurer refuses to cover a person because they are married to someone who is a member of the Traveller community.

What does the law cover?

The law prohibits discrimination on the nine grounds above by insurance providers, agents or brokers when they are quoting for, or providing, new policies or renewals. This includes compulsory cover, such as motor insurance for drivers, and optional insurance for things like travel, home, life and healthcare.

The law only covers discrimination on insurance based on the nine protected grounds – not discrimination on any other grounds.

Who can be responsible for discrimination?

The law applies to any company or individual who provides, sells or advises on insurance.

These include:

  • Insurance companies
  • Agents of insurance companies
  • Insurance brokers
  • Travel agents or tour operators that sell or arrange insurance policies

Can different treatment in insurance be justified?

Yes. The Equal Status Acts allow insurance providers to treat people differently where they can justify doing so. This means they can decide whether to insure you or how much to charge you for insurance following an assessment of actuarial data and/or other relevant factors.

For example, insurers may in certain cases justify charging more for insurance if actuarial data demonstrates that customers pre-existing conditions are statistically more likely to require in-patient hospital treatment than customers who do not have such conditions. If justified, this will not amount to discrimination on the ground of disability.

This exception does not apply in the case of gender discrimination. This means for example that an insurance provider is not permitted to use a person’s gender as a risk factor when determining their car insurance premium.

If insurers treat you less favourably because of any of the nine protected grounds listed above, you can notify them that you are considering taking a claim under the Equal Status Acts and ask them to justify why they have treated you differently by way of a Form ES1. If you are not satisfied with their response, you can make your complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).

How do I make a complaint about discrimination in other types of insurance?

  1. Write to the company by way of Form ES1, setting out the details of your complaint. You must do this within two months of when the discrimination took place.
  • Explain what happened and when, and why you think it broke the law on discrimination under the Equal Status Acts.
  • State that, if a satisfactory reply is not received within one month, you intend to take the case to the Workplace Relations Committee (WRC).
  • Make sure you keep a copy of your letter or email, with proof of the date you sent it (such as a certificate of registered post).
  1. If the insurer does not provide a satisfactory reply within one month, you can fill out and submit a WRC Complaint Form. This should be done within six months of the date of discrimination.

Find our how you can make a complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission.

In cases involving discrimination on grounds of gender, you can choose to complain to the Circuit Court instead of the WRC.

How can I show I am being discriminated against by an insurer?

To show discrimination, it is helpful to identify a person who you can compare yourself to. This person is called the ‘comparator’.

You must show that you are being treated differently from a person who is in a similar situation to you (the comparator) but is not in the same protected group as you.

For example, it is discrimination if you have a disability and you are refused insurance but John, who does not have a disability, is provided with insurance. In this case, John is the comparator.

Who can the comparator be?

  • In most cases, the comparator is a named person who is, or intends to be, insured by the same company as you but is not in the same protected group as you.
  • If you cannot identify an actual person, you can use a hypothetical example (perhaps taken from the insurer’s website) of a customer who is given typical quotes for a similar policy.

You can use the Form ES1 referred to above to ask for information about comparators.

What evidence do I need?

The evidence can be:

  • Written – such as insurance quotes, letters or emails refusing to provide you with insurance or to renew your policy, and photos of policy documents, as well as any contemporaneous notes you may have taken.
  • Spoken – a statement from a person who heard a phone call (or attended a meeting) between you and the insurer or their agent

Make sure all evidence shows the date it was written or received.

You can also make a Data Subject Access Request to obtain copies of any personal information that your insurer holds on you.


Motor insurance: Older driver with a no-claims record has a right to renew

An insurance company refused to renew the policy of an 80-year-old driver with six years’ no claims bonus, but accepted an application from the person’s neighbour, who was a 30-year-old with the same no claims record. The pensioner made a complaint on the ground of age discrimination and was successful.

Car insurance: Blanket policies are not enough

A motor insurer refused to give a quote to a 77-year-old driver, in line with its policy of not taking on new customers aged over 70. The driver said this was age discrimination. The company justified its policy on the ground that statistics showed older drivers had more accidents than younger drivers. The Equality Officer acknowledged the statistics but said they did not justify a blanket policy of rejecting applicants over 70, as the company should also take into account factors such as driver health and a no claims bonus. They also noted that the company had signed up to the Declined Cases Agreement, which states No Insurer shall decline a risk on the grounds of age of driver alone’.

Travel insurance: Premiums may rise with age

Two cruise passengers in their 80s complained that their insurer was offering a policy that did not cover their pre-existing health conditions and was six times more expensive than one they had bought for a similar cruise two years earlier. They held that this amounted to discrimination on the grounds of age and disability. They argued that the insurer should have taken into account their excellent general health and should not have identified them as health risks just because they were over 80.

The insurer produced actuarial evidence showing that higher premiums were justified for older customers as they were at higher risk of falling ill and claiming compensation for it. The Adjudication Officer agreed that the company’s terms and premiums were justified in this case because they were based on sound statistics. As a result, the insurance company did not have to provide a cheaper quote to the two older people.

What can I do if I am refused motor insurance?

As a separate and parallel avenue, you can also go to the Declined Cases Committee of Insurance Ireland.

You must:

  • Show evidence that you have been refused motor insurance cover from at least three insurers.
  • Provide the date you applied to each company, and the date they refused.
  • State the reasons they gave for refusing to cover you.

The Declined Cases Committee will order the first insurer you approached (or any other insurance company that has sold you a policy in the last three years) to send you a quote. The Committee can decide whether the quote is so high or restrictive that it amounts to a refusal of cover. The only legal ground on which an insurer can refuse cover is if providing it would be against public interest.

The Declined Cases Committee can also help if an insurer refuses to add an additional driver to your existing policy.


Insurance Ireland

Insurance Centre

5 Harbourmaster Place


Dublin 1

DO1 E7E8

Phone: 01 676 1820


Can I complain to the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman (FSPO)?

In certain cases, you can complain to the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman (FSPO) as a separate and parallel process to complaining to the WRC.

Before complaining to the FSPO, you must first make the complaint to the insurer and give them time to resolve it. There is no charge for using the FSPO’s services, but if you hire a legal representative you will have to pay their fee.