Zurich Commercial is refusing to provide its small Businessline account holders with quotes over the phone, it emerged this week.

But distribution manager David Smith said these brokers could still obtain commercial vehicle and car quotes from software systems such as Misys and Policy Master, and shop and office quotes via the internet. Zurich will also continue to renew small quotes.

The news broke after small brokers found they were turned away when they contacted the Zurich teleservice business unit.

The policy was highlighted by South Wales insurance consultant Paul Griffiths, who said Axa's announcement last week that it would be offering a cut-rate service to small brokers was not unusual.

Griffiths said he had been unable to get a phone quote from Zurich, who he moved to following its purchase of Eagle Star, since before Christmas.

“With the amalgamations, we're down to literally a few insurers,” he said. “As far as direct dealing with insurers, we have very little choice.”

Griffiths said he had an account under £10,000 with Zurich, but would find it difficult to increase the account without easy access to quotes.

Smith said that although Zurich did segment the agents using Businessline, both on the size of their account and the number of quotes they took up, its treatment of Griffiths had been far less harsh than other insurers.

“If you compare the service from us with other insurers, they'd have already called the account,” he said.

“If he wants to come to us with a business plan on how he wants to grow his account, we'd be happy to talk.”

Smith said the market was becoming more difficult for small brokers, but that Zurich was working on a number of innovations – that he would not reveal – for that segment this year.