The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has been described as becoming “the provisional wing of the Consumers Association” by the director general of the Association of British Insurers (ABI), Mary Francis.

In a stinging attack on the FSA, Francis said, in a letter to the Financial Times: “A visitor from Mars would be forgiven for thinking, from the material it has publicised, that the FSA is in a fight to the death with existing providers.” She said the FSA had a duty to financial services companies, which provide vital savings and products for millions of people.

Francis added there was a danger that customers might shun insurers and decide their money was better off kept under a mattress.