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Priceline's auto insurance plans sent to junkyard

The name-your-own-price e-tailer and insurance company W.R. Berkley scrap plans to sell auto insurance online because of unfavorable market conditions.

Priceline.com and W.R. Berkley have scrapped plans to sell auto insurance online because of unfavorable market conditions.

Priceline, the name-your-own price e-tailer, said in a statement Tuesday that the proposed company was very early in the planning stages, had not hired any employees, and did not have a formal business plan. The capital that was invested in the auto insurance venture will be returned to investors, the Norwalk, Conn.-based company said.

W.R. Berkley is a property casualty insurance company based in Greenwich, Conn.

Amid one of the Internet industry's most pronounced downward spirals, Priceline is hunkering down. The company has curbed its ambitious growth plans of a year ago to concentrate on obtaining profits from its travel offerings. The company lets customers name their own prices for airline tickets, hotel rooms and rental cars.

Scaling back at the company has resulted in layoffs, and Priceline also has seen some executive departures. Last week, company founder Jay Walker stepped down from the board of directors.

In recent months, Priceline ended plans to offer other services as well. The company said it would not sell life insurance online, offer cellular phone services, implement a business-to-business offering, or launch an affiliate in Japan. In October, Priceline affiliates WebHouse Club and Perfect YardSale ceased operations.