AS many as 200,000 women are facing motor insurance increases of up to €300-a-year, the Irish Independent has learned.
Insurers have already started to push up premiums for females ahead of new rules banning gender discrimination due to take effect in December.
Increases of between 10pc and 45pc are being imposed on women drivers between the ages of 17 and 30, with lower rises for older women.
The trends emerged in data compiled from 16 insurers by brokers AonInsure.ie.
There are around 200,000 women with a full driving licence who are under the age of 30.
Women have traditionally paid much less for insurance than men because they are less risky drivers.
But from December an EU ruling will not allow insurers to charge different rates to men and women.
However, insurers have already started to increase premiums ahead of the new ruling taking effect.
They are raising the premiums for women, but they are not lowering men's insurance costs. This is because men are involved in a far greater number of serious and expensive accidents.
Last night the Consumers' Association accused insurers of profiteering.
Michael Kilcoyne of the consumer body said: "Insurers are profiteering here. They have a captive market because by law we all have to have car insurance."
He said the moves by insurers to push up premiums for women went against the spirit of the EU gender directive, which was supposed to ban discrimination on grounds of sex.
Instead, women were being punished, the Consumers' Association said.
Declan Cahill of AonInsure.ie, which produces an index of insurance costs, said younger female drivers were being hit hard by the changes.
He said insurers were adjusting their pricing each month so that they do not end up with one sudden rise in rates in December.
By the end of the year women under the age of 30 will end up having to pay between €200 and €300 a year more for car cover.
"We are seeing evidence that insurers are already changing their pricing month-on-month instead of in one fell swoop later in the year," Mr Cahill said.
He explained that a 21-year-old women who lives in Cork and drives a Peugeot 206 had been quoted €1,000 for insurance. A man of the same age and with the same car quoted €1,900 up to recently.
Now insurers are gradually moving to a situation where the man and the women are both being quoted €1,900 -- this is a whopping 90pc rise.
Some insurers were decreasing the rates for men, but most were leaving men's premiums alone while hugely increasing women's rates.
Female drivers in Ireland, Britain and Italy were all seeing hikes in premiums, as these countries have the biggest gap in premiums between men and women. Mr Cahill attributed this to "hot-blooded male driving" in these countries.
The move to unisex insurance pricing comes at a time of a host of rises in the cost of running a car.
Motorists will be forced to pay an extra 10c in tolls from January, while all year there have been rises in the cost of petrol and diesel, and motorists have been hit with higher car tax, VAT and carbon taxes.
A ruling last year by the EU Court of Justice forced the EU to issue a directive banning gender discrimination for insurance.
The Irish Insurance Federation (IIF) admitted yesterday that insurance costs for men and women were converging, but denied there was any profiteering.
Michael Horan of the IIF said: "Insurance companies are not trying to profiteer. We did not want the EU gender ruling, but we have to adapt to what the directive says."
He said the market was highly competitive, and added that recent figures showed the average premium was €584. This was half of what was charged in Britain.