Small offenders seem to fly under the regulator’s radar

When is a mortgage adviser’s advert of no interest to the Financial Services Authority? When the ad is placed by a one-man band in a local newspaper.

Since August 2005 I have, as re-quested by the FSA, highlighted to its financial promotions department that a local joker has been continually ig-noring the basic requirements of advertising in the mortgage market.

If you lose a deal to a competitor it’s not pleasant at the best of times but when the playing field isn’t level, what chance do you have?

This is not an isolated incident. At a recent FSA conference I had the opportunity to discuss the matter with representatives of companies similar to mine.

The consensus was that, provided a firm is small fry and advertises in local newspapers rather than nationals, the regulator is not interested.

If the deals advertised don’t exist, how can you compete against them and their related fantasy interest rates?

As I said, my initial report was made last summer but the advert is still going and it’s still wrong – no annual percentage rate and insufficient warnings. However, the phrase ‘regulated by the FSA’ has been removed – even though the firm is indeed regulated, according to the FSA register.

I accept that the vast majority of companies stick to the rules when advertising in the press but if there is a process designed to root out bad apples and when you use it, it makes no difference, you’re wasting your time.

I realise that for the FSA to fine Nationwide nearly £1m over a lost laptop must have been appealing because although the security of customer details is vital, the story also makes great press.

But how many customers have to be misled into paying upfront fees for deals that don’t exist before the regulator steps in?

Simon Robins
Compliance director
Chase UK Corporation
By email