A EUROPEAN Court ruling that insurers can no longer offer women cheaper car insurance has been condemned as "utter madness".
One leading Irish insurance specialist said the ruling was "bad news" for women while others warned that it was "a setback for common sense".
The ruling means that insurance premiums are set to rise across the board, with female motorists likely to be the big losers, experts said.
From the end of next year, insurers will not be able to charge a different premium to men and women.
The ruling could mean that younger women will face a rise of up to 25pc in premiums,while young men might only see a small decrease.
At the moment, a young male driver can pay €600 more a year for insurance than a similarly aged women with the same car.
Even those in their 30s and 40s are set to be hit hard by the ruling while experts said some companies may even stop insuring young drivers altogether.
The European Court of Justice ruled that setting insurance premiums on the basis of differences between men and women was discriminatory and breached European rules on equality.
John Farrell, director of AA Insurance, said that "equality won over fairness".
"Young women crash their cars far less often than young men, a fact that is beyond dispute," he said.
"This is a bad day not just for Ireland's female drivers but for all motorists," Mr Farrell said.
"We will see premiums rise across the board as insurers struggle to find new ways of pricing accurately based on risk.
"In the long run, insurers will be compelled to systematically overcharge all women, especially young women."
David Hughes, an insurance specialist with www.getcover.ie, said: "From a motor insurance perspective, this is bad news for women.
"However, there is an upside. Traditionally, life assurance premiums and pension payments favour men and the balancing of these rates will have a positive impact for women."
The ruling will mean higher premiums for everything from motor insurance to life insurance and critical illness policies, experts said.
Maeve O'Brien (33, from Dun Laoghaire)
"On an equality basis, I suppose it's fair but if men are more likely to crash, then I don't think it's fair that we're covering for them. Obviously I don't want to pay more. I assume it will be an extra €200."
Maeve Hegarty (24, Dublin)
"It was kind of unfair for rates to be different. I think, if anything, that it should be men's rates going down."
Jenny Maher (30, Ratoath)
"It was quite discriminatory because some men are good drivers and some women are terrible drivers. But nobody has any money as it is and it's probably going to mean that I won't use my car."
Edel Long (25, Tipperary)
"It's going to make a big difference. I only use my car once a week, so I would consider leaving it if insurance was going to go a lot higher."
Triona Bourke (23, Tipperary)
"I don't have a car at the moment but it would put me off getting one."