AXA has admitted service standards have "slipped" in the face of tougher underwriting criteria, following a complaint about renewal term deadlines.

Head of broker development Colin Calder said the problem was industry wide as insurers and brokers struggled to meet current and future FSA requirements.

He said: "It is too early to comment on the specifics of this case however we are carrying out an investigation.

"But we are all conscious of the fact that service standards have slipped. Stricter underwriting criteria have placed huge strain on the process.

"Unfortunately this situation is not unique to AXA or the general insurance market."

The complaint centred on the late delivery of renewal terms for a commercial policy issued by Lymm Insurance Brokers.

The policyholder, who asked to remain anonymous, had to wait 27 days past his renewal date to receive new policy terms.

The two 14-day extensions left the policyholder unable to accurately cost jobs and his clients starting to think there might be something seriously amiss with a company that was having 'trouble' getting insurance.

He said: "If my position is typical, it seems to me that the insurance industry view of commercial customer requirements is rather different to customers' views. It seems your regulator/insurers have no grasp of commercial reality and it is getting worse."

Lymm Insurance Brokers managing director Colin Lees said the case was not isolated. He called the complaint a "well expressed example of typical client dissatisfaction with late delivery of renewal terms".

The complaint was passed on to Biba, but a spokeswoman said it was too early for any official comment.