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Data Protection Commission

Case Study 1

Motor Insurance - excessive information-marital status not necessary

I received a complaint about a practice among motor insurance companies of asking applicants an excessive number of questions. The complainant considered that some questions had no relevance, in particular the one relating to marital status. He was of the opinion that the information sought had more to do with customer profiling than assessing insurance risk.

The insurance companies informed me that marital status is not taken into account in a decision about insurance. However they considered that they needed this information because if an issue about alleged discrimination arose in the future in regard to marital status, it would have to be able to have supporting evidence to comply with the Equal Status Act. I found this reasoning difficult to accept.

Under section 2 of the Act, data sought should be adequate, relevant and not excessive in relation to the purpose for which it is obtained and held. I considered that details of a person's marital status is irrelevant to the question of motor insurance and requested that this question be deleted from questions asked of prospective customers. Of course, if a person wishes to include a named driver on the policy, it is reasonable and relevant that the relationship be indicated.

I am pleased to record that the companies agreed to delete the question and I trust that all companies in the industry are so doing.