Your Money: The FSA has lost our faith

The Financial Services Authority's escape from censure over regulatory failure at Equitable Life left policyholders out in the cold.

There had been high hopes that Ann Abraham, the Parliamentary Ombudsman, would unearth negligence by the regulator and cut a clear path to government compensation. But it wasn't to be. Her conclusion - that the FSA did its job well by staving off Equitable's collapse at a critical point - did a disservice to consumers and, inadvertently, the Government.

It underlines the conflict at the heart of the savings industry: how do you bolster consumer confidence when financial industry practices seem to work against their interest?

Persuading us to save money by investing in pensions and other financial products remains one of the Government's toughest tasks, yet how can we feel confident about parting with our cash when our faith in the regulator has so far proved misplaced?

No doubt to the FSA's chagrin, mis-selling has become a term synonymous with the financial industry because of scandals such as those over mortgage endowments, split cap investment trusts and personal pensions. And last week's decision on Equitable will have done nothing to change savers' minds.

We need renewed faith that making a decision to save isn't likely to leave us short-changed - and that demands a regulator that inspires confidence.

The Treasury's review of the FSA is an opportunity to examine forensically how it could be improved. The chance must be taken.

Melanie Bien is away

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