Columbus Direct is starting to issue travel insurance certificates automatically over the web.

The move follows a study of 3,500 customers that found they wanted to receive quotes within 40 seconds, buy online in under four minutes, and have a certificate within 30 minutes.

Few people were troubled about the security of email; most worried about the certificates getting lost in the post.

Managing director Sydney Henderson said: "22% of our customers travel within 48 hours and cannot rely on the post."