Tuesday, 15 September 2015
The Financial Services Consumer Panel has called for a simple rating system that would help people decide which financial services firms would be likely to treat them well.
Research commissioned by the Panel shows that consumers are enthusiastic about getting information about firms’ behaviour and quality of service to help them make decisions about which firms to buy products and services from. Consumers say the information should be authoritative, impartial, easy to understand, and incorporated into existing decision-making tools, like comparison tables.
The Panel believes a score for firms’ behaviour could be developed from available data, including regulatory history such as penalties and redress, service level data held by firms (for example, time spent waiting by customers who phone a contact centre), and surveys of customers’ views about service levels. The Panel has urged the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to consider the feasibility of developing a composite measure as part of its work on Smarter Consumer Communications.
A ‘star’ system, or similar, would help consumers work out at a glance which firms were likely to treat them well post-sale. It could also amplify the impact of penalties or poor service levels by giving firms a clearer incentive to improve behaviour and to treat customers fairly, thus driving competition, and increasing overall trust in retail financial services.
Sue Lewis, Consumer Panel Chair, said:
“When people buy a financial product or service, they have no idea how well the firm they are buying from will treat them after the sale. Sadly, their expectations are not high, and they assume that all providers are as bad as each other.
There is a wealth of information available on the way firms treat their customers, but it is hard to get at or to interpret, so people can’t use it for making decisions about which firms they want to do business with.
We think the FCA should lead the way in combining the different aspects of firm behaviour together in a single measure. At the very least, we believe the regulator should require firms to publish more data about service level and firm conduct, and consider how these can be made most accessible to consumers.”
Foeke Noppert (Consumer Panel): 020 7066 5268
NOTES TO EDITORS:
- The Financial Services Consumer Panel has today published a position paper on “Consumers as Co-Regulators”, which explores possibilities for the FCA to develop a composite ranking measure of post-sale treatment of customers by financial services providers.
- Independent research commissioned by the Panel found that consumers are looking for information about both firms’ regulatory history and proxies for the post-sale service experience, in particular those that cover accessibility and quality of response. The research is also available on the Panel website.
- The FCA already requires firms to publish complaints data and could require firms to publish additional information. In the telecommunications sector, Ofcom publishes factual service level data so that consumers can compare different aspects of telecoms services. The Food Standards Agency has developed both the ‘Scores on the Doors’ hygiene measure for eateries, which enables consumers to engage with previously ‘hidden’ information and make more informed decisions at the point of sale.
- The FCA in July 2015 published a discussion paper on Smarter Consumer Communications, in which it committed to “driving improvements in the effectiveness of the information consumers receive about the financial products and services they have or want to buy”. The Panel is therefore recommending that the FCA evaluate its communications with consumers and assess how they could be used more effectively to harness the power of consumers as co-regulators and promote competition that benefits consumers.
- The paper also calls on the FCA to determine which service level proxies it should require firms to publish, alongside data about firm conduct and how these can be made most accessible to the public. It should also improve its website to provide a comprehensive, easily navigable source of chronological information on all relevant aspects of firms’ regulatory history.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 on its website: www.fs-cp.org.uk or via its LinkedIn and Twitter accounts.
Sue Lewis (Chair)