For the first time, the Court rules against an insurer who had turned down an HIV-infected woman

23 June 2017
Area of action: Goods and services
Grounds of discrimination: Other areas of discrimination

Under penalty of a fine of 2500 euro per established violation, the Commercial Court of Brussels has ordered insurance company Cardif to put an end to a discriminatory practice in which it had denied an HIV-infected person insurance.

The court has ruled in favour of a woman who could not take out outstanding balance insurance for a mortgage loan because she was seropositive. After she had filed a lawsuit, Unia also joined the case.

Cardif, a subsidiary of the BNP Paribas group, had contended before the court that, given that the risk was impossible to evaluate, it had no choice but to deny this woman coverage.

For Unia the case is clear. The denial explained by the insurer was in fact a violation of the Law of 10 May 2007 to combat discrimination, which protects 19 criteria including state of health.

"We are satisfied with this ruling. The contractual freedom of the insurer is not absolute and is in particular limited by the antidiscrimination legislation. To deny an HIV patient outstanding balance insurance is also to bar that person outright from access to property; basically it means that this woman is denied the prospect of a life ambition, which is highly unjust."

We point out that from a recent research study of discrimination against seropositive persons it appears that a third of the reports from HIV-infected persons who come to Unia relate to access to and offer of goods and services. In most cases denial of insurance was involved. For HIV-infected persons that type of administrative complications has quite a number of consequences, which are not just limited to denial of equal treatment. They provoke negative feelings (injustice, abandonment, betrayal, shame) that can further exacerbate the state of health of HIV-infected persons.