Access to goods and services
What the rules say
The Directive 2004/113/EC implementing the principle of equal treatment between men and women in the access to and supply of goods and services enshrines in EU law the principle of equal treatment between men and women in the access to and supply of goods and services.
All EU countries were required to implement the directive by the end of 2007, except for the clause about costs relating to pregnancy and maternity -Article 5(3)-, which must be implemented by the end of 2009.
Scope of the rules
The directive applies to:
- all people and organisations (both public and private sector) that make goods and services available to the public;
- goods and services offered outside the area of private and family life.
The directive does not apply to the content of media and advertising or to education.
Differences in treatment may be permitted in the provision of goods and services exclusively or primarily to members of one sex if this is justified by a legitimate aim, and if appropriate and necessary. A legitimate aim could, for example, be the protection of victims of gender-related violence (in cases like the provision of single-sex shelters).
There is also a specific exception for insurance and related financial services where gender is used as a determining factor in the assessment of risk based on relevant and accurate actuarial and statistical data.
This derogation has recently been declared invalid by the Court of Justice as from 21 December 2012. The ruling will have repercussions for the EU countries and for the insurance industry and the Commission is currently assessing these implications. Discussions with the main stakeholders are planned in the coming months, the result of which will be reflected in a report on the implementation of Directive 2004/113/EC to be adopted by the end of the year.
National equality bodies
Each EU country must have at least one body responsible for promoting equal treatment between women and men in the fields covered by the directive. These national equality bodies are empowered to analyse the problems encountered, monitor the situation in their country, make recommendations and provide concrete assistance to victims.