Joe Public is scared of insurers using genetic tests because he does not understand the issue, claims the Association of British Insurers (ABI) as the Human Genetics Commission (HGC) launched its consultation on the use of genetic information.

Nearly 80% of people think it is wrong for genetic information to be used to set insurance premiums, an HGC survey finds. But more than a third of those surveyed said insurers should be allowed to see the test results before they provided life cover.

An ABI spokesman said the consultation was welcomed as a means of addressing the misinformation about the use of genetic testing by insurers.

“We welcome sensible and informed debate, to increase the public's knowledge of the issues and aid understanding of the insurer's stance,” he said.

“Once they [the public] fully appreciate the work we do, they'd be much more supportive of the insurer's approach.”

The consultation document, titled Whose Hands on Your Genes?, poses questions such as: “should insurance companies be required to consider personal genetic information differently from other medical information?” and “what principles should govern the way insurance companies may or may not use pre-existing personal genetic information?”.

The deadline for submissions is February 28 next year, with final recommendations due with the government in autumn next year.

The ABI spokesman said the submission could require the association to approach members for their opinion. “Our submission has to include what the market feels and wants,' he said.