Norfolk-based broker Richard Hartley from Insurance Solutions has called upon smaller intermediaries to band together and form an insurance software users' union.

Hartley is one of several hundred Penta users. Penta, the Misys-owned software package, has suffered a number of setbacks this year. Hartley said there was widespread disillusionment among brokers at the service and support they received from software providers.

"I have spoken to several brokers who have received shoddy treatment from software providers," he said. "If we come together to speak with one voice then we can have more influence and learn from the experiences of other users.

"Effective use of IT will be the biggest challenge facing smaller intermediaries in the next few years. To a large extent, the performance of software houses controls the success of our businesses. Collective bargaining over the direction of systems we use would seem prudent."

Hartley said he is keen to differentiate his idea from the existing user groups, which are run by the software houses themselves in most cases.

"The current user groups are too 'cosy' with the software houses," Hartley said. "I am talking about a group that would look at the issues of contracts and compensation when serious failures occur. It would challenge the way software providers treat individual users.

"Trying to get things put right on your own can be like banging your head against a brick wall. There are occasions on which a legal opinion needs to be sought and it is crazy for each broker to seek this individually."

Last month Misys announced it was to withdraw support for its Vistec users.