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Consumer champion Sheila McKechnie dies at 55

Consumers&#39 Association director Dame Sheila McKechnie has died after a long illness.

McKechnie, who died last week aged 55, had lived with cancer since 1997 but maintained an active role as director of the CA until last November.

She was an outspoken campaigner who took the side of consumers in many confrontations with the financial services business.

She joined the CA in 1995 after nine years as director of housing charity Shelter. McKechnie transformed the CA from what was widely seen as a research-based group into an effective campaigning body through skilful use of the media.

The high-profile campaign on mortgage endowments offered complainants a ready-made letter of complaint and McKechnie was involved in showdowns with the industry over with-profits and personal pensions. But many in the industry applauded her rep-eated calls for customers to seek advice from IFAs and noted her efforts in campaigning to keep polarisation.

She was a vociferous critic of life offices using orphan assets to pay pension review compensation and in January 1999 she stunned an LIA conference packed with life office executives, branding them “rip-off merchants” for dipping into policyholders&#39 funds.

She was also fiercely critical of the FSA and in 2002 she complained to the Treasury that the FSA had failed to protect consumers over its handling of the mortgage endowment crisis. Later that year, she called for the creation of league tables to name and shame the worst-performing with-profits endowments.

McKechnie was awarded an OBE in 1995 for services to the homeless and made a Dame in 2001 for her work for consumers.

Consumers&#39 Association senior policy adviser Mick McAteer says: “Sheila was a tireless worker who gave the Consumers&#39 Association its campaigning drive and her death is a terrible loss.”

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