FCA to review register after another complaint about misleading data

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The FCA will review the system behind its register following the revelation in a Complaints Commissioner decision that a proper fix would cost between £50,00 and £100,000.

A Complaints Commissioner decision says the FCA will review the design of the “Tardis” system while saying it is a concern that changing information on the “inflexible” register should be “prohibitively expensive”.

The review was revealed as part of a long-running complaint which concerns a husband and wife who had set up an advice firm, Firm I, that became an appointed representative of another company, Firm B.

Their association with Firm B ended one year before Firm B was publicly censured by the FSA for breaching its rules and principles.

The couple later became aware that entries on the FSA register from 2004 gave the impression they had been directors and appointed representatives of Firm B and they had undertaken controlled functions for the firm, which was not correct.

The couple complained to the FSA and the former Complaints Commissioner in 2009. The FSA said amending the register would be too costly and that it would consider the matter again if there was a “redesign in the way information about appointed representatives is displayed”. The commissioner upheld the FSA decision.

The FSA also dded explanatory information to the website to clarify the role of a CF1 director (AR) but this was removed and not replaced when an updated register went live in 2015.

The couple’s MP wrote to the FCA to say the new version of the register still contained misleading information about them, and the couple complained to the FCA again in December 2015 and to the commissioner in June 2016.

In October, the FCA found there was no evidence the couple’s concerns had been taken into account when amending the register.

The Complaints Commissioner says: “They concluded that, even if your concerns had been taken into account, it was unlikely that the register would have been amended given the costs which would have been incurred.”

The regulator apologised and offered a payment of £500. The couple responded to the FCA saying its decision did not address all of their concerns.

In his decision, commissioner Antony Townsend says the letter sent by the FCA to the couple’s MP in 2015 was misleading. He says the case has parallels with another case about a misleading register entry that he responded to in 2016.

He says: “While the cases have many different features, it seems to me that both are examples of the FCA failing to put itself in the shoes of the regulated person or the end user of the register.”

The decision says the FCA’s IT department looked into whether changes to the register could be done at an “acceptable cost” but it found that a full solution would cost between £50,000 and £100,000.

It says: “It is nonetheless a matter of concern that changes to the register appear to be so costly. The FCA have made the point to me that although the proposed change may appear minor, it involves changes to the underlying data in the register, and that is expensive. It is also a matter of considerable concern that there appears to have been no reliable system for logging possible changes to the register to ensure that they were reviewed at the appropriate moment.”

Townsend has recommended the FCA compensation payment is increased to £1,500.

He also says: “The FCA should consider whether this case, and the other one to which I refer, suggest that staff need to be reminded that, when considering representations from regulated individuals, they need to consider not only the procedural correctness of what the FCA has done, but also the possible unintended impact upon the individuals.”

He also says the FCA must consider if the problems with making amendments to the register suggest it’s design is to inflexible.

The FCA says: “We accept the commissioner’s findings and recommendations in this case and will be writing to the complainant with a further apology and to offer to make an increased ex-gratia payment.”

The FCA will review the system behind its register as part of its move to new headquarters in 2018.