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Experts should not make mistakes

Mortgages seem to be the in thing for MPs to get stuck into as the subject for early day motions. These motions allow MPs to call for a debate on any topic they feel deserves attention. It’s easy to take these things terribly seriously but even the parliamentary website that holds information on all the motions tabled points out that the vast majority will never be debated.

That’s not to say they are pointless as they allow MPs to focus attention on areas of concern and canvas support. Frequently, these motions are picked up by the press, effectively giving topics national exposure.

A couple of weeks ago I commented on the misguided attention that one motion focussed on the supposed withdrawal of fixed rates from the market. More recently there has been another motion with mortgage industry issues and products at its heart.

This centred on the trend of rising mortgage arrangement fees, a topic that has been discussed in this publication a number of times. The motion raises valid points about whether these fees are aimed at achieving best buy status despite representing poor value.

It goes on to question whether sufficient prominence is given to fees in promotional literature and advertisements and whether high fees are being used to draw consumers in with low interest rates. It even picks out a Halifax fixed rate with a £1,999 fee for specific attention. This is all worthy of wider attention, which indeed it has received in the national press.

Of course, financial promotion rules require that adverts should be clear, fair and not misleading so now they give a better perspective on products and point out the downs as well as ups. They also clearly state the ‘go to’ rate.

Lenders recognise this and arrangement fees are included in the main copy of adverts but it is interesting to note that many outside the industry don’t feel this goes far enough.

Moneyfacts.co.uk was quick to jump on the motion to point out that its best buy tables are based on true cost and that the large fee, low rate option can be good for large mortgages. More worryingly, it suggests the Halifax product carries an extended tie-in when in fact it is a stepped fixed rate.

While MPs may glean too much from press reports from time to time, those with specialist knowledge should not make such mistakes.

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