Insurers are being branded Luddites for failing to embrace new WAP-based gadgets that are about to take the high street by storm, following a survey by consultancy CMG.

WAP, which stands for Wireless Application Protocol, is a technology that allows gadgets such as mobile phones, Palm devices and laptops to access the internet and, in many cases, supports online purchasing.

But to achieve WAP compliance, insurers and brokers have to rewrite their websites in XML – a programming language.

So far, though, just 19% of insurers have rewritten their sites, and only 29% see an urgent need to do so.

Paul Aaron, director of CMG's finance division, said: “Insurers' lack of preparation for developing XML versions of websites in a period where WAP technology is catching on at a terrific pace could prove costly.”

He added: “The industry's limited plans to provide content on wireless websites shows they have failed to acknowledge that their customers are anything more than customers of financial products.”

The report's most surprising finding, given the lack of work insurers are doing to develop WAP-capable websites, was that 79% of respondents believe mobile commerce is a critical method for gaining a competitive edge.

Aaron commented: “Perhaps the most worrying statistic is the industry's lack of hunger to gain excellent customer knowledge – 42% are apathetic about enhancing critical data on their audiences. This suggests that, in the finance industries, the customer has yet to be crowned king.”

The survey took in responsesfrom 50 medium-to large-sized insurance companies.