Our loan protection selling probe indicates profiteering by providers

From Simon Burgess

I fully endorse the need for Financial Services Authority regulation in the PPI field and regard the Treating Customers Fairly initiative as conceptually brilliant, but there is still a long way to go before the regulator can claim that its regime is working in practice.

I recently commissioned an independent mystery shopping exercise into loan protection sold by high street and other lenders and the results, all 11 volumes of which will shortly be considered by the OFT, are alarming.

The pricing differentials between providers were so huge that they could not be explained by anything other than blatant profiteering. Sales staff are clearly not making sufficient effort to ensure that products are suited to customers’ particular circumstances.

For example, my mystery shopper was self-employed but many salespeople failed to draw to his attention the fact that the cover only pays out when the self-employed cease trading. Indeed, only 60% of available policy summaries contained sufficient detail to warn him about this restriction.

Of equal concern was the failure of lenders to make it clear whether they were offering advice to the buyer or just providing them with generic information. Initial Disclosure Documents that tell you whether advice was being given were only supplied in 62.5% of cases.

But I was always expecting it to take the FSA a good couple of years to implement its policing mechanisms effectively. After all, the investment side of the business can hardly be considered immune from mis-selling and that has been regulated for the best part of two decades.

The quality we all need is patience. The FSA has the right policies and it is hard to see how the more unscrupulous providers will survive the Treating Customers Fairly requirements once it is their turn to face the music.