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Failure to see real-life consequences of depolarisation

I am writing to clarify certain statements attributed to me in the

article headlined, Angry CA attack on panel&#39s “ivory tower” Brown

(Money Marketing, February 6). To make it clear, any criticism was

not aimed at Colin Brown personally for his views on depolarisation.

I am unfamiliar with Colin Brown&#39s opinion on the CA&#39s polarisation

policy so would not comment on his views.

However, my criticisms and those phrases were definitely directed at

what we believe is the FSA&#39s academic approach to polarisation, which

we believe is fundamentally flawed and a major distraction from the

job in hand of making markets work in the consumer interest.

Any form of market control may be anathema to academic theories of competition.

However, it is not enough to assert, as the FSA does in CP121 and

elsewhere, that the free for all or liberalisation which works well

in other retail sectors such as high-street retail goods or

supermarkets can be transplanted into the pension and investment

world. A real life, not a theoretical, case has to be made for

reform (to be fair, the FSA&#39s Canary Wharf headquarters are neither

ivory nor quite a tower, so perhaps the ivory tower quip wasn&#39t

totally fair).

Polarisation is not perfect but it didn&#39t cause the problems in the

market. Any system is worth retaining unless a reasoned argument to

the contrary can be made and if the proposed reform leads to even

worse detriment for consumers, as we believe depolarisation will do

without robust counter measures.

Pensions are not commodities like high-street goods. Very different

dynamics operate in the pension and investment world. The risks and

consequences of consumers making the wrong decisions are huge for the

consumer and society in general. We believe depolarisation will only

serve to reinforce competition for distribution and anything that

introduces yet further complexity must weaken further consumer


Anyone who does believe that the supermarket model can be applied to

pensions and investments will continue to attract CA&#39s robust

criticism, especially if they do not make a case based on real-life

consumer behaviour.

Mick McAteer

Senior policy adviser,

Consumers&#39 Association,



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