Car Culture

UK insurance company charges more based on email domain

Insurance firm Admiral is now the subject of an investigation by the UK Financial Conduct Authority based on its pricing policies.

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In the UK, hanging onto that ancient Hotmail email address from secondary school might be costing you more than just the respect of your more tech-savvy peers.

British insurance company Admiral has admitted to charging drivers who sign up with a Hotmail email address upwards of £30 more per year for car insurance than those who sign up with a Gmail address. It was also found to charge more for drivers named Mohammed, in a separate investigation by UK newspaper The Sun, which raises the question: Just how crazy are this company's actuarial tables?

Have Hotmail? Expect to pay more for insurance from Admiral.

Admiral

According to Admiral, it's not just @Hotmail that gets charged extra. It has found through research that drivers with certain email domain names are more accident-prone, enough to justify the increased charge, in its opinion. The UK's Financial Conduct Authority isn't buying it and is investigating the Leicester-based firm in response to The Sun's discoveries.

The email address price difference is relatively small at around £30 and looks silly in comparison to the almost £1,000 difference in otherwise identical quotes for men named John Smith and Mohammed Ali. The Sun found that it isn't only Admiral that has a price discrepancy, though it's by far the worst. London-based insurance company Bell was second worst, with a £515 premium for our fictional friend Mohammed, and several other companies hovered around the £200 mark.

In fairness, calculating risk accurately relies on a vast array of data points and doing it correctly is critical to an insurance company's profitability, but at what point does the data become too granular, too specific and cross over into discrimination? It seems reasonable that you should expect to pay more for insurance if you own a brightly colored V8-powered Ford Mustang and regularly find yourself leaving car shows, but something as personal, arbitrary and unconnected to driving ability as your first name seems to be a bridge too far.