Axa has set a target date of May 2001 for the introduction of net-rated pricing for the whole range of its insurance products.

Insurance Times reported last July that the Anglo-French insurer intended to bring in single product pricing right across broker, direct and affinity

distribution channels.

Costs would then be added into each distribution channel to reflect the expense of bringing products to these separate markets. For example, the cost of advertising in the case of a directly sold product, or the option of a courtesy car service if a policy is sold by a broker.

However, Axa spokesman David Ross stressed that the product price for brokers would not be linked to their likely commission.

Axa has already made substantial progress and expects to complete the project by May.

Call centres or "personal communication centres" have been set up to handle telephone calls from a mix of brokers, the public and affinity members under one roof.

And, to ensure each type of customer receives a standardised quote, the insurer has formed a single underwriting team for each of its motor, household and travel divisions.

Ross claimed that the call centre initiative has been welcomed by brokers for helping to improve the quality of service they receive.

The next step in introducing flat-rated pricing is for Axa to move to a single IT system.

The company has been standardising its products, some of which it inherited following its merger with Guardian last year, with the final aim of creating a "better breed" range incorporating the best elements of each.