The UK has class distinctions that Americans don’t always understand. But here’s a new one that even has the UK in an uproar: You can be designated as a loser based on your email provider.
To be precise, car insurer Admiral is charging customers more for using Hotmail instead of Gmail.
Yes: Hotmail users are deemed to be more dangerous drivers. And Admiral says it’s in its rights to reflect that in its pricing.
"Certain domain names are associated with more accidents than others," it says, according to AOL. "We use a variety of pieces of information to accurately produce a competitive price for our customers."
The sheer stupidity of it takes our breath away. But let’s be professional here. Is this based on accident statistics or on prejudice? The latter seems likely, given Admiral’s preference for customers with English surnames.
Oh, we forgot to mention that: According to AOL , the Sun recently “exposed the insurer for charging drivers with non-English-sounding names up to £900 extra on their insurance policies.”
This can’t be based on propensity for accidents. And it has drawn the ire of human rights advocates.
All that said, the email surcharge isn’t as great as the non-English name one — Hotmail users can be dunned for more than £30 extra.
But one wonders: Is this just a profit center? Or does it reflect something evil?
Here’s one guess, and we admit we’re giving Admiral the benefit of the doubt: Hotmail is seen as yesterday’s email service. People signed up for it in droves in the 1990s. And in some addled underwriter’s mind, this may prove that Hotmail users are older and more inept — doddering, in fact.
The Guardian concurs with this thesis.
“With the passage of time and the absence of a brand overhaul, the word ‘hotmail’ near your name started to be quite ageing; like “ntlworld” or “blueyonder”, it was a sign that you weren’t keeping up,” it writes.
The Guardian adds: “It was a deduction that wouldn’t stand up in a court of law, but online it is inference, not certainty, that drags you down. When you could have an ageless Yahoo address, there is just no call to leave this kind of footprint, unless ‘incredibly old’ is your calling card.”
Got it — there’s the logic. And it might even used as a marketing variable. But where is it is going? Are landlords going to turn you away the minute you give them your Hotmail address? Will you be turned down for loans? Finally, is someone going to devise an ugly epithet for Hotmail users, one that can be used to bully children?
The real insanity of this is that there’s a surefire away around it. Switch to Gmail, Yahoo Mail or Microsoft’s Live account. It’s that easy.