The European Union's Gender Directive is officially in effect. Last year, the EU Court of Justice ruled that "differences in insurance pricing based purely on a person's sex are discriminatory." That means that insurance companies can't factor gender into their premium tables, so as of December 21, 2012 the rates that EU residents pay for different types of insurance products will change – the expected trend for car insurance is that women's rates will go up while men's rates go down.

The courtroom argument is that the varying rates for men and women are arbitrary. The insurer's argument for the varying rates is, for instance, that young men are many times more likely to get into car accidents, and more serious accidents, than women. Or take life insurance, another product affected by the directive since men don't generally live as long as women. In that case, premiums should rise for women but drop for men. On the other hand, premiums for income protection insurance or pension annuities should increase for men but decrease for women.

Predictions as to how much the average person's rates will change are all over the charts, but it's a new factor for British consumers to consider when shopping for insurance. Autoblog EU readers, take note: if you didn't get that shopping done before now, you're an automatic member of the new, non-discriminatory regime.