Gender-Based Pricing? British Lawmaker Wants to Outlaw ‘Pink Tax’

By Kevin McCandless | April 17, 2019 | 2:01am EDT
(Photo: GAO)

London ( – Razors. Deodorant. Car insurance. These are just some of the products which are often cited as costing more for women than men, and British lawmakers are now considering legislation that would do away with this so-called “pink tax.”

A bill introduced in the House of Commons last month would extend consumer protection to prevent companies from charging more for “products and services that are substantially similar” but which are marketed differently for men and women.

“Products marketed at women are on average considerably more expensive than those marketed at men,” the bill’s author, Liberal Democrat lawmaker Christine Jardine, said in a statement.

“Often the only difference is the color [of the product concerned], yet this unfair price gap will have a significant financial impact on a woman over the course of her life,” she said.

In recent years, studies and newspaper investigations on both sides of the Atlantic have prompted calls for lawmakers to act against the ostensible practice of gender-based pricing differences.

In 2018, British tax firm RIFT found that women pay on average 6.3 percent more than men for a four-pack of disposable razors, and 10.6 percent more for deodorant sticks of identical size.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) said last August it found that in five out of ten personal health care categories examined, “average retail prices paid were significantly higher for women’s products than for men’s.”

“In 2 categories – shaving gel and nondisposable razors – men’s versions sold at a significantly higher price.”

The GAO said it did not have enough information to determine if the differences were due to bias, or to other factors, such as advertising costs or product demand.

In January, the California Department of Insurance issued new rules stating that auto insurers may not charge drivers higher premiums based on their gender.

Jardine’s bill is not being supported by the Conservative government, whose view is that the government should not be setting prices for goods and services.

“Although I share concerns on this issue, prices in the U.K. are set by competition, not by the government,” Victoria Atkins, the Minister for Women, told the House of Commons. “As intelligent, questioning consumers, women should not be afraid to challenge retailers or manufacturers who are trying to rip us off and, where we are not satisfied, to vote with our purchasing decisions.”

Atkins said although the government would not be supporting the legislation, it welcomed “the focus [Jardine] is bringing to this important issue.”

Bills brought independently of the government traditionally have a difficult time becoming law in Britain. If not passed into law by the end of the current parliamentary year, which is projected to end this summer, the gender-pricing bill will die.

During an earlier House of Commons debate on the issue, several years ago, Scottish National Party MP John McNally said that before entering parliament he had worked as a hairdresser, barber and salon owner – an industry in which he said there were “"universally accepted gender pricing inequalities.”

He noted then that “a haircut for a man with short hair could cost 40 percent less than one for a woman with short hair.”

“There are some cases, particularly in my profession, of a legitimate business need for gender pricing,” he said. “But the fact is that society is not generally aware of gender pricing inequality, which is of great concern.”

Last week, McNally said he was currently campaigning for the mandatory registration of all hair salons, which would in part, “address inconsistencies within the gender pricing, where applicable.”

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