Broker trade body Biba this week dumped internet firm Business Freenet as a partner and announced that it has u-turned completely on plans to become a broker software house.

In February this year the internet company was awarded a deal to provide CD-Roms to Biba's brokers. The association hoped Business Freenet would provide "internet connectivity" for its members.

But this week a spokeswoman for the association said: "Unfortunately they were completely unable to deliver and we had to pull the plug."

In the past year, Biba has also sought talks with software giants Microsoft and IBM aimed at improving "broker connectivity".

A deal with either of those companies now looks impossible.

Biba said it had now changed its stance completely and would never become a software provider in its own right.

Chairman George Nixon said: "While we provide support to our members, we have concluded that it would not be appropriate for Biba to embark on its own technology initiative for use by our members."

Biba said it had taken the decision because becoming a software provider would compromise the association's ability to give its members best advice on which technology to use.

Nixon said: "We do want to provide support to our members. There are a lot of sales people out there, each of whom claims to be offering 'the best answer to your needs' and this can be confusing."

As part of its new service, to be launched in March 2001, Biba will provide information on the services of each software house against a set of fixed criteria.

"We will not recommend any particular system to any firm because it would be inappropriate for us to do so," said Nixon.

"The service that we provide will help each of our members to understand better what is on offer and to decide what offerings are likely to meet their needs."

Business Freenet was unavailable for comment.