Virgin Insurance – Letter to Richard Branson

Is ‘gay-friendly’ company loading insurance premiums?

Richard Branson
Virgin Communications Ltd
186 Campden Hill Road
London W8 7CH

23 February 1999

Dear Sir,

Some weeks ago I applied for Virgin life insurance. During a telephone conversation I was asked questions about my sexuality that I feel were intrusive and discriminatory. Your agent conducted the interview in a professional and friendly manner, and I have no complaint whatsoever with him. The questions themselves were the problem.

Virgin has a long record of support for gay community events, consequently, it seems incongruous that you should include questions in your life insurance interview that imply that gay people will be discriminated against by higher premiums, if their application is accepted in the first place. Unlike smoking, for instance, being gay is a given, not a choice.

As your actuaries will be aware, there are other means of covering you against loss resulting from lifestyle risk that are used by other companies. If a company with the reputation of Virgin would set the example by removing discriminatory questions from your insurance applications, I am certain that others will follow. You will thus gain the further gratitude of the gay community and send out the message that you treat all your customers equally.

Thank you for your time.

Yours sincerely,

David Allison

Dear Mr Allison

Thank you for your letter, dated 23rd February 1999, giving your concerns regarding the questions you were asked in order to obtain a quotation.

I appreciate that all of the questions we ask are of a personal nature, however we do need to ask these to ensure that we are assessing any application fully. To enable us to give a fair cost to all of our customers we need to assess a number of areas that could potentially pose a risk to us, and therefore our customers. The areas that need to be specifically evaluated are our customer’s health, lifestyle, occupation and hobbies, and questions are asked about all of these areas.

Unlike insurance cover provided by many other insurance companies, Virgin Life and Serious Illness insurance does not have an HIV exclusion clause as we aim to provide as much cover as possible for our customers. Any possible risk factors must therefore be assessed when considering individual costs.

While we do not have any immediate plans to alter the questions we ask, our customer’s views are very important to us and are considered when making changes. Thank you, once again, for taking the time to write to us.

Yours sincerely

Judy Gregory

Virgin Direct
Virgin Direct Personal Financial Service Ltd
Virgin Direct Personal Financial Service Ltd is regulated by
the Personal Investment Authority for life insurance,
pension and unit trust business and represents
only the Virgin Direct marketing group.
Registered office: Discovery House,
Whiting Road. Norwich NR4 6EJ
Registered in England no. 3072766