This month, the Treasury Committee has launched an inquiry into consumer access within financial services industry, with a focus on vulnerable consumers.
The Treasury Committee has outlined its desire to protect consumers from rogue financial advisers this month by initiating an enquiry into the relationship and interaction between vulnerable consumers and financial firms.
The Committee is a cross-party group of MPs appointed by the House of Commons, who scrutinise and hold accountable many agencies, including the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
The inquiry will look into whether certain groups of consumers are excluded from a basic level of service from financial services providers.
Being held to account
The committee stated its desire to see evidence of how regulators hold financial firms to account for how they treat vulnerable clients. They have also asked how service providers define “vulnerable”.
Committee chair, Nicky Morgan, stated:
With customers expected to take more responsibility for their financial planning and resilience, bank branches closing, and the number of free-to-use ATMs falling, it's becoming increasingly difficult for vulnerable customers to access certain financial services.
Recently, the highest profile case of discrimination in this sense was in October when Paralympian Tanni Grey-Thompson claimed it had been difficult to see a financial adviser, and it had appeared that they did not want to work with disabled people.
There is no date set for when the report will be released, however the deadline for submissions is 14th December 2018.
Financial Services in the sights of MPs
The news of the inquiry comes a few weeks after Nick Smith MP called for action to rectify the British Steel Pension scandal.
Financial adviser firms wrongly advised more than 8,000 steelworkers to transfer their pensions. MPs said at the time that British Steel pension scheme members were targeted by "vulture" financial advisers after Tata was allowed to offload its retirement fund.
In October, Smith called out Active Wealth UK, a firm that was closely linked to the British Steel scandal, stating:
We have a system of pensions and financial regulations that fails to protect hard-working people. The chancellor needs to put this right and to get on the side of the working people.
While he agreed that the FCA and the Pensions Regulator are working better together, Smith noted: "We also need stricter penalties, better information and far tighter oversight."
It would appear that the financial services industry is in the crosshairs of MPs more now than ever.
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