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‘Consumer information needed to end confusion over multi-ties’

A comprehensive public list of multi-tie operators with full details of their panel relationships is urgently needed to stem consumer confusion, says a specialist management consultancy.

Impact Plus principal consultant Guy van Koetsveld says the industry cannot wait for the FSA’s 2007 depolarisation review as multi-tie arrangements are clouded in misunderstanding and risk treating customers unfairly.

He says the information in the list should include whether multi-tie relationships are legal or commercial deals with defined contracts or less formal arrangements with frequent reviews.

Clarity is also needed to enable fully competitive panels to be compared against sub-panels which operate on a best of breed basis or where different providers offer different products.

Van Koetsveld also warns of the potential to create multiple panels, for example, where a multi-tie creates a white-label version of its technology and services as part of a distribution partnership with a provider which is not part of its panel.

He suggests that product ranges may become more restricted in future, with multi-tie-specific products and whole-of-market products which are unsuitable for multi-ties.

He also says the dynamics of relationships within multi-tie panels have introduced a conflict between competitive and co-operative behaviour between providers, which needs to be highlighted.

Van Koetsveld says: “A depolarisation review in 2007 might be all right for the FSA but not for the industry or consumers expecting to be treated fairly.

“If all this is filed in the ‘too difficult’ folder, the likelihood is that there will be no clarity on what is happ- ening to the industry.”


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