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Make insurers show charges, SIB told: Report says life offices should spell out expenses for investors

LIFE insurance companies should be forced to show exactly how their own charges and expenses deplete returns on investment policies, according to a report commissioned by the Securities and Investments Board.

At present, companies use average industry figures on expenses when providing quotations to investors on likely returns. New rules proposed by SIB would allow them to continue with this system.

The report was commissioned from Tim Miller, who resigned from the board of the Life Assurance and Unit Trust Regulatory Organisation a little over a year ago over the refusal of regulators to require companies to come clean about their charges.

Mr Miller, who lost his job as marketing director at M&G last October, was asked to look at ways of curbing poor selling methods in the life insurance industry.

In the report published yesterday he said that potential investors should be presented with tables showing clearly, in cash terms, the amount a policy would be worth at the end of each year of its term and the amount deducted in charges.

He said people also needed to be told more clearly whether they were dealing with a tied salesman or an independent adviser, and recommended that all advisers be required to present clients with a simply worded status card.

Mr Miller, known in the investment industry for his pro-consumer stance, said he had been pleasantly surprised by the standards of advice given by the salesmen he observed in his research for the report. 'The best ones are providing an extremely good service,' he said.

The report, Curbing the Sale of Unsuitable Products, will now be considered by SIB, but the regulator is putting off final decisions on the matters raised until the Treasury considers the Office of Fair Trading's recent recommendation that independent advisers should disclose commissions.