Dan White answer your financial questions.
I AM a 38-year-old female driver with a full driving licence and no penalty points. I drive a seven-year-old Ford Focus, have not made a claim for more than 10 years and do about 8,000 miles per year. Currently my insurance costs me €346 for thirdparty fire and theft. Now I read that the European Court has banned the insurance companies from offering cheaper insurance to female drivers. Does this mean that I will end up subsidising more dangerous male drivers and, if so, how much more will my motor insurance cost me?
Last week, in one of its dafter decisions, the European Court of Justice ruled that gender-based insurance price was illegal and that in future the insurance companies would have to charge customers the same price, regardless of gender. While the ruling might meet the requirements of gender equality, it flies in the face of common sense.
It's not a myth. Men, particularly young men, are far more likely to be involved in serious accidents causing death or injury than their female counterparts.
Even when women are involved in accidents, they generally tend to be of the less serious variety, low-speed fender-benders rather than high-speed head-on collisions. Up to now the insurance companies have been able to reward safer women drivers.
Depending on the company, a male driver of Dearbhla's age who drove same car and travelled the same annual mileage would pay up to 38pc more for the same insurance cover.
From December 2012 that will have to change. Instead of charging male and female drivers different prices to reflect the different risks involved, the insurance companies will have to charge them the same price all other things being equal.
In practice, this is likely to mean a slight reduction in male insurance premiums but a large increase in the premiums paid by females.
Unfortunately Dearbhla is right, and she will end up effectively subsidising more dangerous male drivers.
Last year I switched electricity supplier from the ECB to Airtricity. Now I see that the Energy Regulator has decided to deregulate electricity prices. How will this affect people like me who have switched suppliers and should I now switch back to the ESB?
From April 4, the ESB will be free to set its own prices and will no longer have to seek the approval of the Energy Regulator whenever it wishes to either raise or reduce electricity prices.
The regulator also ruled that the ESB name should disappear from the retail electricity market with the company using the Electricity Ireland brand instead.
Up to now, with the ESB's prices set by the Energy Regulator, all the ESB's rivals had to do was undercut its regulated price.
Now there will be no regulated price. This will make it much more difficult for consumers to compare the prices on offer from the various suppliers.
Instead we are likely to be confronted with a series of highly complex packages which, like mobile phones and health insurance, will make direct price comparisons extremely difficult to calculate.
While deregulation will be good news for electricity customers prepared to examine the different packages closely, how many consumers will actually do so?
So if customers are unhappy with their existing electricity supplier how easy or difficult will it be switch?
Up to now ESB customers have been free to switch without giving any notice.
It will be interesting to see what terms or conditions Electricity Ireland imposes.
Bord Gais imposes no fixed-term contract on its electricity customers while Airtricity's electricity customers are also free to come and go as they please.
However, those customers who sign up for Airtricity's joint gas/electricity package are tied into a one-year contract.