What we are doing for consumers
Our role is to represent the interests of consumers in the development of policy for the regulation of financial services. Here we set out some of the current issues that the Panel is pursuing and what we’re doing about them.
Regulatory and Policy Environment
The Panel aims to help bring about a financial services market which meets the needs of consumers. Consumers should be able to trust product providers, advisers and those who buy products on their behalf to have their best interests at heart. They should be able to access the products and services they need at a fair price in a market where competition works in the consumer interest. These principles of trust, accessibility and competition are at the heart of our work.
The regulatory and policy environment for financial services has changed rapidly in the UK and the EU over the last few years. We are still seeing the fall-out from the financial crisis, and we have worked extensively with the Financial Conduct Authority since it took over from the FSA in 2013.
Our main areas of interest at the moment are standards in the banking industry, supervision of the consumer credit sector, and consumers’ ability to obtain redress and compensation. To read more about the Panel’s position on these issues, click below.
The European Union now accounts for a large proportion of financial regulation in place in the UK, and the financial crisis lead to a greater focus on conduct and consumer protection issues.
To ensure that the needs of UK consumers are adequately represented in the EU policy-making process, the Consumer Panel maintains close links with decision-makers at EU-level on consumer representation in Brussels and the content of draft legislation.
In 2015, the Panel will continue to build constructive working relationships with the new European Parliament and Commission, which took office in 2014.
To read more about the Panel’s position on EU matters, click below.
Products and Services
The provision of products and services that ‘do what they say on the tin’ is core to the Panel’s principles of access and trust. Many financial products are an essential component of participation in modern society, making it important that they are accessible to different types of consumers.
Consumers should also be able to trust firms to have their best interests at heart. Disclosure of information by itself is not sufficient to ensure that the interests of providers and their customers are aligned. Firms must treat consumers fairly and communicate with them effectively throughout the lifetime of a product.
Where a consumer has a product like an occupational pension, but has not chosen it, they should also be able to trust those acting on their behalf to get the best outcome for them.
It is also vital to ensure that consumers have an effective right to redress and compensation if they are mis-sold a product, are provided with a sub-standard service or lose an investment when a financial institution fails.
To read more about the Panel’s position on different types of financial products and services, click below.
Accessibility, advice and redress
The Consumer Panel believes that access to financial services is an essential requirement for full participation in society. Firms should set out their terms and conditions succinctly, clearly and in a way that can be readily understood and compared by consumers. Prices should be transparent, represent good value and be comparable across similar products. This means that firms have to be open about the costs and risks of the financial products that they sell.
To read more about the Panel’s position on transparency, advice and accessibility, click below.
The Panel argued strongly for the financial services regulator to be given effective competition powers to enable it to deliver its statutory objectives, and was pleased that a competition objective and wider competition powers were given to the FCA under the Financial Services Act 2012 and the Financial Services (Banking Reform) Act 2013.
We expect that, with its new remit, the FCA will be far better equipped to get to grips with underlying market issues that prevent effective competition, in particular in the market for payment systems and bank accounts.
To read more about the Panel’s position on competition in the retail financial services sector, click below.