First German study on gender-based price differentiation: Women often pay more for services than men/Lüders: No to purely gender-based pricing of haircuts and dry cleaning services

Year of issue 2017
Date 2017.12.20

From razorblades and children’s toys to short haircuts - price researchers in Germany carried out its first comprehensive study on gender-specific price differentiation in products and services.

The result: While there are scarcely any gender-specific differences in the pricing of products, when it comes to services such as hairdressing and dry cleaning, women pay considerably more than men for the same level of service. These are the findings of the Gender-based Price Differentiation in Germany study (Preisdifferenzierungen nach Geschlecht in Deutschland) by the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency (Antidiskriminierungsstelle des Bundes), published on Wednesday.

"If a person pays more solely because of their gender, then this is a fundamental breach of the principle of non-discrimination", stated Christine Lüders, Head of the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency. "Fortunately, this is very rarely the case among products. Especially dry cleaning and hairdressing businesses, however, are recommended to price their services according to the specific service offered rather than according to gender alone", Lüders said. Gender-based categorisations should be avoided on future price lists.

Based on the average German shopping basket, the IF! Institute of Socioeconomic Research and Consulting (IF!) conducted a study at 2HM & Associates GmbH that analysed only those services and product variants specifically targeted at men or women, but show otherwise largely identical characteristics (e.g. identical razorblades with either pink or blue packaging). Of the 1682 product variants identified, 62 (3.7 percent) come with different prices for men and women.

However, the situation is very different with the 381 identified services. Nearly six out of ten (59 percent) of the offerings examined are priced differently for women and men – especially in areas such as hairdressing and dry cleaning. On average, women pay an extra 12.50 euros for a short haircut, and cleaners charge 1.80 euros more for a blouse than for a men’s shirt. Roughly 89 percent of hairdressers surveyed offer standard short haircuts at prices based on gender alone; a third of dry cleaners (32 percent) generally charge different prices for men’s shirts and women’s blouses.

To avoid illegal gender pricing, the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency recommends voluntary commitments by the relevant trade associations. In this context, Lüders, the Head of the ADS, pointed to Austria. "There, the Federal Guild of Hairdressers and the Ombud for Equal Treatment worked together to draw up a template for gender-neutral price lists – a good example", explained Lüders. As a result, a number of businesses have since changed their method of pricing.

The Anti-Discrimination Agency also suggests introducing regular monitoring with regard to gender pricing, which could be conducted, for instance, by the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection.

These recommendations are based on a legal evaluation of anti-discrimination aspects by Prof. Maria Wersig (Dortmund University), which was also examined in the study. Wersig notes that the General Equal Treatment Act is clearly applicable to the pricing of goods and services offered to the public. According to the Act, it is illegal to use gender as a sweeping approximation of clients’ preferences. Nor should gender be allowed to serve as a ‘placeholder’ for the amount of effort expected for a given service. Equally impermissible should it be to exploit gender-specific differences in clients’ willingness to pay.

The study gender-based price differentiation in Germany (Preisdifferenzierung nach Geschlecht in Deutschland) is available here (only in german).

The Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency (ADS for its initials in German) was established when the General Equal Treatment Act (German abbreviation: AGG) entered into force in August 2006. This Act aims to prevent or eliminate any discrimination on grounds of racism or ethnic origin, gender, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation.