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MAS defends ‘robust’ figures for actions taken by customers

The Money Advice Service has defended as “robust” its figures on actions taken by customers after they came under fire in the Christine Farnish review.

The Treasury-commissioned report on the MAS by former Consumer Focus chair Farnish was published in March and recommended a fundamental overhaul of the organisation. It found that the MAS’s expectation that seven to 10 million actions would be taken by consumers as a result of visiting its website this year was “subject to considerable uncertainty and likely to be an overestimate”.

The MAS’s performance results for 2014/15, published last week, report 12 million actions taken during the year. The target was 4.5 million actions. Sixty-three per cent of customers said using the MAS had helped them decide on a course of action; this missed the target of 70 per cent.

MAS chief executive Caroline Rookes says the concerns raised in the Farnish review were based on the organisation’s process for establishing what actions have been taken. She says: “We ask a sample of people six to eight weeks after they use the service what actions they have taken as a result, and extrapolate that to give an overall figure.

“We are content that it is a reasonably robust method.”

Rookes says the percentage target for actions was missed because some consumers do not come to the MAS looking for a course of action, while others may not have found the information they needed.

She says: “An area where that may be happening is pensions, which is not surprising given the extent of change in the past year.”

Rookes adds that the figure should be taken in context with the MAS’s other criteria. It found that 87 per cent of customers said the service provided the help required, while 90 per cent would revisit the site – with both exceeding targets.

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