FORGIVE ME if I return to a subject that has been written about a few times already. Back in March 1995, this newspaper published a story about the potential mis-selling of personal top-up pension schemes, called FSAVCs.

We quoted an actuary from a firm called Bacon & Woodrow who said that in his opinion mis-selling on a major scale was taking place. He called for tighter controls on the way insurance salespeople and financial advisers market these products.

At the same time, the Personal Investment Authority (PIA), the City's frontline "watchdog", said no decision had been taken on whether to give guidance on this issue to advisers.

Nevertheless, after considerable clamour from the press an investigation into whether mis-selling of FSAVCs had taken place was launched shortly afterwards. Nine months later, in January 1996, it reported that there was no evidence to this effect.

This week, if Money Marketing, a specialist financial magazine, is to be believed, new guidance from the PIA will be issued. Its spokeswoman is quoted as saying: "We will be tough and fines are not ruled out ..."

Between 1995 and 1998 at least 400,000 more FSAVCs have been sold to members of the public. It makes you wonder where the PIA has been all this time.

A week or so ago, personal finance journalists from the national press, myself included, were invited to a discussion with the new super-regulator, the Financial Services Authority.

The aim was to find out what areas of consumer protection we believed should be strengthened. All of us had complaints with the present system and suggested a variety of improvements.

The most important lesson all of us have learnt in the past few years is that as long as financial watchdogs remain in thrall to the industry they are meant to be protecting us from, very little will change. We can only hope things will be different this time round.

WE HAVE had quite a few responses to our mini-competition in the Property section, offering pounds 100 for the house move in which readers have shown the most gains over the past decade or two.

But reading Stepping Stones this week (see page 11), it occurs to me that many readers' house moves, while not gaining them much financially, are equally as gripping.

That is why I would like to expand the competition slightly, to cover anyone's moves - as long as they have something to teach us. Write to: Nic Cicutti, Stepping Stones, The Independent, One Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL. This is also the address for readers who would like a free financial makeover from a qualified financial adviser. Except for that you should address your letters to Andrew Verity, a colleague of mine.

FINALLY, LAST week we wrote about the Prudential's new instant access account, offered through a subsidiary called Egg. The account, which offers a market-leading 8 per cent gross on deposits, was launched at midnight on Saturday.

By coincidence I happened to be watching telly when a Egg ad came on at that time. I called the freephone number and gave my details to a very nice-sounding person. To date, however, nothing from Egg has landed on my doormat.

I won't crack any jokes (sorry!) at Egg's expense. After all, they could just be very "laid"-back people who find dealing with customers a bit of a nuisance.

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