Abta has refuted claims that members are mis-selling insurance policies after angry protests from a direct-selltravel insurance company.

Speaking at a debate on travel insurance in London last week, InsureandGo director Perry Wilson said: “The Financial Services Authority has done a great job in getting rid of unscrupulous travel insurance providers and cleaning up the sector. But it is an uneven playing field. Now travel agents should come under the FSA.”

Abta head of financial services Mike Monk told Wilson: “The travel industry sells five million policies a year. If there were systematic mis-selling and complaints there would be a footprint. But there is no evidence of this.”

The existing two-tier system, with Abta members sitting accredited exams outside the FSA regime while other insurance sales are overseen by the FSA, dates from 2005.

Association of British Insurers travel adviser Sean Worth said: “There is a problem across the industry and it would be better to have a single system of regulation.”

He said one in five complaints to the financial ombudsman are about travel agents, which broadly reflects the proportion of sales through the trade.

Wilson questioned whether agents are explaining policies adequately and askingcustomers about pre-existing medical conditions.

He said: “Travel agents are not explaining medical cover. FSA regulation would mean they have to. All our agents are assessed on calls every month. Travel agents are not continually assessed. We have to register complaints and inform the FSA. Travel agents do not have to do this.”

But Monk insisted: “Travel agents selling insurance go through exactly the same process and Abta assesses them. They have to pass an accredited exam.”

“If our members selling insurance do not have a qualification they are in breach of our code of conduct and could be thrown out of Abta.

“We have had 114 people appear before the code of conduct committee. Some were reprimanded, some given time to take the exam and some fined.”