The Treasury Committee launches a new inquiry into consumers’ access to financial services. It will focus on the interaction between vulnerable consumers and financial services firms.
The Committee will scrutinise whether certain groups of consumers are excluded from obtaining a basic level of service from financial services providers. It will also examine whether vulnerable consumers pay more for financial services products.
Commenting on the launch of the inquiry, Rt Hon. Nicky Morgan MP, Chair of the Treasury Committee, said:
“Vulnerability, as defined by the FCA, is where someone who, due to their personal circumstances, is especially susceptible to detriment, particularly when a firm is not acting with appropriate levels of care.
“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.
“The Committee will examine the practicality of the FCA’s definition, the effectiveness of attempts by financial services providers to prevent increased financial exclusion, and whether a premium is placed on products such as travel insurance for vulnerable consumers.
“As part of this inquiry, we’ll be holding sessions outside of Parliament to hear from vulnerable consumers who have interacted with financial services providers.”
Terms of reference
The Committee would welcome evidence on:
- How should financial service providers define ‘vulnerability’?
a. Examine how financial services firms define ‘vulnerability’ and assess how practical the Financial Conduct Authority’s definition of vulnerability is.
b. Evaluate the training and practices in place at financial services firms in relation to vulnerable consumers.
c. Consider the merits of having a ‘duty of care’ for financial services providers and examine whether this would increase protection for vulnerable customers.
- Are certain groups of consumers excluded from obtaining a basic level of service from financial services providers?
a. Examine which customers can be most disadvantaged when bank branches close and consider whether there is evidence to suggest that bank branch closure leads to increased financial exclusion.
b. Consider how financial services providers plan to cater for customers who will no longer have easy access to a bank branch.
c. Examine how providers ensure that their marketing, communications and support services are accessible to vulnerable consumers, including consumers who have low literacy levels.
d. Consider the trends on the use of the Post Office services in areas where bank branches have closed and examine what role the government could play in maintaining the Post Office network to provide shared services.
e. Consider whether there are barriers to participation which lead to consumers not having a bank account.
f. Evaluate the systems and controls in place for Power of Attorney at financial services providers.
g. Examine how financial services providers comply with equality legislation and the mechanisms for enforcement.
h. Evaluate how regulators hold financial services providers to account for how they treat vulnerable customers, and how regulators instruct financial services companies to comply with equalities legislation.
i. Evaluate how fintech and technological innovation could help those who cannot easily access physical financial services branches.
- Do vulnerable consumers pay more for financial services products?
a. Examine the effectiveness of procedures deployed by financial services providers to ensure that customers properly understand the products that they are purchasing, including those who have low literacy levels.
b. Examine whether vulnerable consumers pay prohibitively more for certain financial services products, including travel and home insurance.
c. Consider whether vulnerable consumers have access to appropriate and affordable credit.
d. Evaluate the impact of reducing the number of free-to-use ATMs on vulnerable consumers.
e. Evaluate how regulators assess whether financial services providers are providing products to consumers at a fair price.
Submit your views
You can submit evidence through our evidence portal, or please get in touch if you have special requirements for submitting evidence. You can contact the Committee via email on Treascom@parliament.uk or via the telephone on 020 7219 8222.
The Committee would welcome submissions by Friday 14 December 2018.