The FSA has warned brokers and insurers to improve cold calling sales practices when selling general insurance over the telephone.

Following a review, the regulator said many customers were not being treated fairly by companies, which put pressure on them to buy and exaggerated the benefits of products.

Particular problems were found in relation to the sale of personal accident, health cash plans and accident and sickness policies, the FSA said.

Vernon Everitt, director of retail themes at the FSA, said: "The quality of cold calling in general insurance sales was disappointing. We expect to see significant improvements when consumers are cold called. 

"Swift action has been taken to deliver those improvements at the firms we visited and we are following up with other firms which use cold calling as part of their sales strategy." 

Everitt added: "The bottom line is that firms must never pressure consumers into making a rushed decision and must always clearly spell out the nature and limitations of the products."

But the regulator acknowledged that the standard of sales was generally acceptable when customers called the firms, although the disclosure of significant exclusions and limitations "could be improved".

The caution came following review which involved the industry watchdog listening to over 260 sales calls from 19 firms.

The FSA visited 10 companies, and a total 43 intermediaries and underwriters completed questionnaires.

An FSA spokesman said that although the FSA had no plans for another round of reviews the issue would remain on its agenda.

"It means we are going to be keeping a very beady eye on this issue. At this stage we are mainly concerned with putting right what went wrong with these firms."