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Gender-targeted Pricing

Volume 696: debated on Wednesday 26 May 2021

Prices in the UK are set by competition, not the Government, but it is unlawful to offer goods or services to women and men at a range of different prices. The Equality Act 2010 provides that a retailer must not discriminate against the customer either by failing to provide goods or services, or by providing them on different terms, on the basis of someone’s sex.

It is more than two years since I first raised this issue in this place and very little has changed: women still pay, on average, 20% more for basic goods and services. We have heard already today that women have been hardest hit in this pandemic and we know there is a gender pay gap. If someone comes, like me, from a single-parent family with three daughters, that family faces a much bigger challenge in the current circumstances. The Minister has said that it is unlawful; will the Government please take steps to ensure that the 2010 Act is enforced when it comes to gender-targeted pricing?

It is probably worth my letting the hon. Lady know that I understand what she says but disagree with the premise and the argument she makes. It is important to recognise that in a legal sense there is no discrimination involved in gender pricing, as there is nothing to stop a woman buying a product marketed towards men, or vice versa. The Government want a society in which women and men are free to make the choices that suit them, regardless of rigid stereotypes. I am afraid I think that the Bill the hon. Lady wanted to enact would actually have had the unintended consequence of reinforcing stereotypes.