Motor & Legal group became the first significant claims management company to fall into receivership this year.

Its demise was unexpected since it had reached an out-of-court settlement to keep a national contract with broker Hill House Hammond (HHH). Under the deal the HHH agreed to extend its contract with Manchester-based Motor & Law until February 28, 2001.

Motor & Law's receivers Grant Thornton said there was little prospect that a buyer would be found for the company. Motor & Law was unavailable to comment.

Australian insurer QBE also made the shock announcement that it was planning to sell more than half of Iron Trades' £225m personal lines book. QBE, which acquired Iron Trades in December 1999, said it had decided its subsidiary should focus on its core employers' liability business.

The move led Iron Trades to immediately suspend underwriting all new business for its agency base of 430 high street brokers.

Retail giant Marks & Spencer also caused a stir when it announced its entry into the UK general insurance market.

The high street store group's financial services arm would begin selling branded household cover from September 30.

Marks & Spencer claimed its Home and Contents product was revolutionary in that it did not require policyholders to specify a cover limit for the value of their household contents. The cover would be made available in Marks & Spencer stores and over the internet including to its formidable customer base of six million store card holders.

April concluded with the frontpage splash that the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) was considering outlawing the practice of tying insurance to mortgage products.

The £6bn household insurance and £17m mortgage insurance guarantee (MIG) markets were set to be the most affected.

MIG had attracted controversy because it protected only the lender in the event of a property becoming repossessed from the owner.

This and the fact that borrowers were required to pay the premium for MIG led to the cover being branded a one-sided deal.

The DTI said it was planning to consult interested parties on its proposal to ban all tied insurance products, including MIG, household and accident, sickness and unemployment (ASU) cover.

The proposal attracted support from Biba chief executive Mike Williams. He said: “This is an issue that continues to concern our members and we would welcome any measure that would extend choice in this field.”

However, the government expressed concern that by banning MIG it could make it more difficult for first-time buyers to obtain mortgages.

And it warned that lenders may resort to charging an additional mortgage fee if they were barred from requiring borrowers to pay a premium for MIG.