The head of Eagle Star's online insurance operations has predicted the death of

websites that stick to selling single brand insurance.

Malcolm Booth said: “I believe it will be very difficult for someone using their own brand name to sell in the future.”

He forecast that because well informed consumers were looking for choice, websites offering just one insurer would not survive more than a few years.

“How long are price-orientated consumers going to stay with you?” he asked the Internet Marketing Advisory Board conference.

Paul Dickson, managing director of Dickson Insurance Brokers, operators of the insuranc-e.com site, agreed with Booth's assessment.

He said: “I think it is about providing choice. Comparative shopping is right at the top of the list of why ecommerce works.”

He said own brand sites did have a role to play a couple of years ago but this was just to get ahead of the market.

A spokesman for directline.com disagreed with Booth's warnings of doom.

He said: “Directline.com is currently the UK's leading online insurer and we've sold in our first year over 100,000 policies online and I think these figures speak for themselves.

“Directline.com is going from strength to strength and by 2003 we aim to be selling at least 50% online.”

He said that strong brands offering good value, with a quick and easy online process, had the ingredients for a successful online business.