Is equity release working for consumers?

28 November 2013

On Wednesday 13 November, the Financial Services Consumer Panel and StepChange Debt Charity co-hosted a Roundtable discussion on the equity release market.

The overall objective of the roundtable was to debate how the market can be improved particularly given the government’s policy ambition to position equity release as one means of solving two major issues of later life; low retirement income and long term care funding.

The Consumer Panel and StepChange have concerns about how the equity release market is currently working. In particular:

  • poor competition and consumer choice brought about by the inter-relationship between some of the largest providers and advisers.
  • confusing, restrictive and changeable product terms.
  • high and unpredictable exit penalties and
  • the lack of product innovation and entry to the market by new providers

It is our joint view that without concerted effort to improve the market, equity release will not deliver good outcomes for some consumers.

The roundtable was well attended by leading industry experts, consumer groups, government officials and the regulator. Full notes of the meeting are available here.

 

Teresa Fritz, Consumer Panel member commented:

“I am pleased that the debate about how to ensure that this market works in the interest of consumers has finally begun. Although industry and consumer groups didn’t agree on all things I was reassured that we had a frank exchange of dialogue and the commitment to continue engagement”.

Tom Moloney, StepChange Equity Release manager, said:

“As an industry we must challenge ourselves to keep moving forward, welcome product innovation, improve advice standards and encourage new entrants to the market. Without improvements, the potential benefits of equity release to numerous consumers could be lost”.

 

Notes to editors

  1. The Consumer Panel is a statutory body under the Financial Services Act 2012. It was initially established by the Financial Services Authority in December 1998. The Panel advises the FCA on the interests and concerns of consumers.
  2. The Panel’s membership is drawn from a broad range of backgrounds with expertise including market research, law, financial services industry, financial inclusion, European Regulation, financial regulation, consumer advice, campaigning, communications, compliance and later-life issues.
  3. The emphasis of the Panel's work is on activities that are regulated by the FCA, although it may also look at the impact on consumers of activities outside but related to the FCA's remit. More information about the Panel's work is available here.
  4. Panel members are appointed to serve a maximum of two terms of three years.
  5. StepChange Equity Release offers free, impartial equity release advice and is operated by the UK’s leading debt charity, StepChange Debt Charity. StepChange Equity Release is the only charity operated equity release service.
  6. To ensure impartial advice StepChange Equity Release staff are salaried, with no sales targets, bonuses or commission.
  7. In 2012, CCCS Equity Release (now StepChange Equity Release) was the only advice service to pass all of the Which? best practice tests.
  8. StepChange Debt Charity is self-funding. Lenders share with the charity the benefit they receive from its operation, making a donation from the money repaid to them. This allows StepChange Debt Charity to retain its independence and ensure that its advice is always in the best interest of the client.
Thursday, 28 November 2013