From 9 January 2019, the government’s new ban on pensions cold-calling takes effect.
Making unsolicited calls in regard to pensions is now illegal, and any business found to be breaking the law will face fines of up to £500,000.
Data published by the Money Advice Service recently revealed that as many as eight scam calls are made every second in the UK, totalling 250 million unwelcome calls per year.
Meanwhile, research conducted by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) suggested that pension scammers stole an average of £91,000 per victim in 2018.
Commenting on the ban, John Glen, Economic Secretary to the Treasury, said: ‘Pension scammers are the lowest of the low. They rob savers of their hard-earned retirement and devastate lives. We know that cold-calling is the pension scammers’ main tactic, which is why we’ve made them illegal.
‘If you receive an unwanted call from an unknown caller about your pension, get as much information you can and report it to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).’
The ICO website can be accessed here.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has confirmed plans to extend the Financial Ombudsman Service to a greater number of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
Under the plans, SMEs with an annual turnover below £6.5 million and those with fewer than 50 employees will be able to direct their unresolved complaints to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
The FCA calculates that, as a result of the changes, around 210,000 additional SMEs will be eligible to use the service.
It has published ‘near-final’ rules on the matter, allowing the Financial Ombudsman Service to begin to prepare for the changes. Final rules will be published ‘later this year’.
Commenting on the news, Andrew Bailey, Chief Executive of the FCA, said: ‘We recognise it is vitally important for SMEs to have a mechanism to resolve disputes, and we are clear the Financial Ombudsman Service is the right route for this.
‘The changes we are making are as far as we think we should go within our powers, but they will provide access to the Ombudsman Service for a significant number of smaller businesses.’
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has proposed an overhaul of the tax and regulatory regime for the financial services sector so that the industry can effectively deal with the ‘challenges and opportunities presented by a rapidly changing technological landscape’.
In a new report, the CBI stated that the financial services sector is ‘grappling’ with the challenges of technological change, as well as dealing with ‘shifting tax and regulatory expectations’.
The business group argued that the financial services sector requires regulations that are ‘fit-for-purpose in a new technological age’.
Some of the proposals put forward by the CBI include creating a new Treasury Select Committee sub-committee for financial services, in order to ‘scrutinise regulations and taxes’; strengthening engagement with the Financial Stability Board; and establishing a cross-sector financial services technology ‘hub’, supported by both the Treasury and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), to share best practice, knowledge and the latest technologies.
Commenting on the report, the CBI’s Head of Financial Services, Flora Hamilton, said: ‘The challenges and opportunities presented by the rapid pace and tremendous scale of technological change come in equal measures for financial services firms. To fully embrace this change, firms are clear that they need the right regulatory and tax framework in which to operate, so they can innovate and grow.’
A survey conducted by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has revealed that more than a fifth of individuals who were contacted in regard to a fraudulent investment failed to report it.
The FCA surveyed a group of over-55s, and found that only 63% of individuals would report an investment scam to the authorities.
49% of those surveyed stated that they would not know who to report a scam to.
The FCA is encouraging the public to get in touch if they have been contacted by a firm offering fraudulent investments. The Authority keeps a list of potentially fraudulent firms that operate without authorisation: this can be found here.
Addressing the issue, Mark Steward, Director of Enforcement at the FCA, said: ‘It’s clear to see that by reporting suspicious investment schemes to the FCA, people are having a direct impact in helping to stop fraudsters exploiting others. But there is still more we can all do and we need the public’s help.
‘We are encouraging people to speak out on behalf of their family or local community, just like they would report a crime in their local area.’
Investment scams can be reported to the FCA using its ScamSmart website.
A survey carried out by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has suggested that 50% of individuals in the UK are ‘financially vulnerable’, with many having to make use of loans in order to pay bills and make ends meet.
According to the FCA’s Financial Lives Survey, 25.6 million UK adults ‘display one or more characteristics that signal their potential vulnerability’.
The FCA found that 13% of individuals aged between 25 and 34 are in financial difficulty, whilst single parents aged between 18 and 34 are the most likely to use high-cost loans.
In addition, 24% of UK adults stated that they have ‘little or no confidence’ in managing their finances, with a further 46% of individuals reporting that they have ‘low knowledge’ of financial issues.
Meanwhile, only 35% of those aged between 45 and 54 have thought about how they will manage financially once they retire.
Commenting on the findings, Christopher Woolard, Executive Director of Strategy and Competition at the FCA, said: ‘Just because individuals could be vulnerable doesn’t necessarily mean they will experience actual harm, but these results help regulators and firms alike to understand where we should target our efforts.’
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has set out proposals to require banks to publish information on the quality of customer service that they provide.
Banks may be required to outline how long it takes to open an account or replace a lost, stolen or stopped debit card.
Under the proposals, they may need to explain how long it takes for an individual to be granted access to a personal current account under a power of attorney.
The FCA also revealed that firms who offer personal current accounts could be required to outline how and when consumers can carry out different transactions, and whether 24-hour help is available.
In addition, banks may need to publish data on the number of security incidents they experience.
Christopher Woolard, Executive Director of Strategy and Competition at the FCA, said: ‘Customers tell us they think ‘all banks are the same’ and so they are discouraged from looking for current accounts offering better performance.
‘We know from our consumer research and the Competition and Markets Authority’s report that consumers and small businesses are really interested to know about the service their bank or building society offers compared to other firms.
‘These proposals represent a step forward, making it easier for consumers to judge whether their bank is offering good service and for firms to see if they are competing effectively against other providers.’
Many consumers are taking out drawdown pensions without seeking regulated financial advice, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has warned.
The FCA revealed that, before the implementation of pensions freedoms in April 2015, 5% of drawdown was purchased without advice, compared to 30% now.
A range of measures to address the issue have been proposed by the FCA, including gathering evidence on ‘consumer outcomes’ in order to assess whether extra protections should be put in place for those who choose to buy drawdown without obtaining expert advice.
The FCA has also urged the government to consider allowing individuals to access their savings early without being required to make a decision about the remainder of their pot.
Commenting on the issue, Christopher Woolard, Executive Director of Strategy and Competition at the FCA, said: ‘Since the introduction of the pension freedoms, the retirement income market has changed substantially.
‘We have identified areas where early intervention may be needed either now or further down the track to put the market on the best footing for the future.’