Two years may have passed since his undressing of the US broking fraternity, but the Eliot Spitzer effect is still as potent today as it was in 2004.

Now it is under the guise of the European Commission (EC), which will shortly publish its findings into anti-competitive practices in the financial services sector.

First in the firing line are brokers. After the New York attorney general's inquiry left some of the biggest players battered and bruised, the first draft of the EC's investigation is being awaited with some uneasiness.

The Spitzer effect has sparked a European debate about broker transparency and has led the market to wonder how best to prevent wrongdoing.

Dane Douetil, chief executive of Brit and chairman of the market reform group, has long been a patron of net pricing.

Within months of taking over at the helm of the Lloyd's insurer, Douetil was joining the charge in favour of the costing system, which effectively means that brokers get paid only by insurance buyers.

He renewed his call at Brit's recent half year results and insisted that while bigger brokers welcome broker transparency there are some disparities in the regions.

But not everyone in the market agrees that net pricing is the way to quell the Spitzer effect. Not surprisingly, the broking community is less enamoured to the 'one price fits all' approach.

"The business doesn't come to us because it's on our doorstep, it's because we go out and get it," says a senior broking source. "If the overall cost of buying a product, that is, the insurance policy, combined with terms and conditions, is competitive then you get the business.

"But, you have to pay for that service. Service is often seen as a soft issue, something that is intangible. How do you define good service against bad service?"

Some view the combination of competition and existing regulation as protection enough.

Nigel Roberts, chairman of Aon marine and a member of the reform group, understands the desire to drive forward transparency. And, although he acknowledges the merits of net pricing, it is not, in his opinion, the answer to a crystal clear industry.

He believes the motivation behind net pricing is to get acquisition costs in the London market lowered. "If acquisition costs look high to any capital provider then they're more likely to set up in Bermuda than London," Roberts suggests.

If that is the motivator, then for Roberts the answer lies in looking at the way the market does business.

Whatever judgment the Commission makes at the end of this month, the ongoing debate on broker transparency is likely to continue and Spitzer's legacy looks set to live for a long time to come. IT