Call for steps to restore faith in financial industry

Ann Foster, chairman of the independent Financial Services Consumer Panel, today calls on the financial industry to stop ripping off customers and restore public confidence in the market.

Ann Foster, chairman of the independent Financial Services Consumer Panel, today calls on the financial industry to stop ripping off customers and restore public confidence in the market.

In the panel's annual report Ms Foster says: "Far too much of the industry is still characterised by mis-selling, misleading advertising and a failure to treat customers fairly. We implore the industry to take steps to bring everyone up to the standards of the best. We should share a goal of restoring confidence in this important market, so that consumers can shoulder their financial responsibilities secure in the knowledge that they are buying suitable products from reliable firms who will deal with them fairly."

Although the Panel was set up by the Financial Services Authority, the regulator does not escape Ms Foster's censure. She says: "If the FSA is to raise standards in the industry it must act faster and be less accepting of industry assurances. It seems inevitable that many firms will continue to act poorly without intervention, or a credible threat of intervention, from the FSA."

The report also warns that attempts to close the savings gap at the expense of consumer protection will only undermine future consumer confidence, and that no amount of financial education will replace the need for help through a network of generic advice centres.

It says: "There is much to do to make the retail financial services market fair and understandable before consumers can be expected to take more responsibility for themselves. The FSA has an important role in providing information to consumers - and it could do better."

However, the report says the FSA is taking a more proactive approach and intends to act more quickly.

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