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Free pension review firm reported to FCA

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A firm which claims to carry out free pension assessments on behalf of the Government has been reported to the FCA.

Philip J Milton & Company managing director Philip Milton reported Pension Assessment Services to the regulator after receiving a cold call from the firm.

On its website, pensionassessment.org.uk, the company claims to offer “free pension assessments and reviews”. It says it has been “set up to assist UK pension holders with a free pension assessment”.

In small print at the bottom of the website it says: “This service is not affiliated with the Department of Work and Pensions [sic] or any government body. Pension Assessment Services is not authorised to give any advice.”

Milton says: “The caller told me the Government wanted them to assess everyone’s pensions and provide annual statements, as since the pension reforms people are being overcharged, or are in under-performing pensions.

“Their website is also designed to mimic a Government site in its design and domain name. The regulator must do something about firms like this.”

In response to Milton, the FCA says: “Your correspondence has been forwarded to the relevant team within the FCA. They will consider this matter further and decide if any regulatory action can or should be taken with the firm.”

Pension Assessment Services did not respond to a request for comment.

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Comments

There are 13 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Dominic Thomas 18th June 2015 at 3:49 pm

    Well done Mr Milton. Lets see how quickly the FCA react and take action on something that is rather obviously “misleading” at best. It is things like this that make a mockery of the industry we have to get rid of them.

  2. I get at least one call a day from firms with a very similar script,I am glad Philip unlike myself took the time to report these firms that are growing in number by the day. FCA get your finger on the pulse please!!!

  3. I hope that the regulator not only takes action against this particular company but also the marketing companies that are touting for leads online, only to sell on these onto adviser without any authorisation!

    How on earth is the consumer meant to know whether online companies are trusted regulated advisers or scam marketing firms if the regulator does not enforce authorisation rules and marketing rules.

    This is something that’s been going on for YEARS within financial services and it is about time that the regulator started to enforce marketing regulations instead of just fining regulated firms for small breaches but take no notice or action against the marketing and indeed some so called journalistic websites – I think we know who we are talking about.

    Remind me again what the statutory objective of the FCA is: “isn’t it to protect the consumer.”

    It would be interesting for the FCA to publish how many websites it is closing down each year for breaches of authorisation and marketing rules or is this information secret!

  4. Julian Stevens 18th June 2015 at 4:36 pm

    The FCA may actually get its rump in gear reasonably quickly on this one, for the simple reason that it’s a news item. Were it not, it would probably go into its Maybe we’ll get round to that on a slow day if we’ve nothing better to do bin. Well, that’s where most such reports seem to end up, isn’t it?

  5. Christopher Petrie 18th June 2015 at 4:52 pm

    The link to switch it into Welsh doesn’t work either. Clearly they’re happy to just fool the English, and unless you hover over the non-working link, it just looks like an official government heading (as presumably is the plan).

  6. What makes anyone think this outfit are doing anything that’s regulated by the FCA? OPS are the Pension Regulator’s remit and, if these guys are following the current typical MO of DB transfer to SSAS, there’s no FSMA touchpoint.

    Short version for Julian: there’s probably nothing the FCA can do about this.

    The good news is that it’s not completely pointless to report things to the FCA, because they’re part of the multi-agency Project BLOOM. This means that the information will get to someone who can do something about it. Just you’ll likely never see that play out in the public domain.

  7. Even if they do take action against THIS company, the Director has at least 4 other companies trading from the same premises. What the FCA should be doing is asking or demanding that the ISP takes the site down immediately, but then the director would simply open up another site with a similar name.

  8. Regulatory points of note are:-

    Data protection – no authorization given for details to be shared.
    Financial Regulation – cold calling regarding financial products, ostensibly providing advice (how do they know what constitutes performance or high costs?). How can free reviews and assessments be offered by an unregulated company which does not purport to represent a regulated company for which it could be canvassing (purportedly)?

    Misleading, mimicking the Government etc etc – all things which one should hope a regulator somewhere would perceive is not wholesome even if nit’s up to another to say what laws have been breached. However, the regulators can stop things first, under pain of penalty now and bigger if continuing and the opportunity for the miscreant to prove to it its legitimacy? Just think if it had done this with Boiler Rooms when it could have done….

  9. @ Philip – what “financial product” exactly? A DB scheme? That, as I said above, is TPR’s domain rather than the FCA’s. Is the firm “offering” some “investment” instead? Most of the things I’ve seen in this space are unregulated, so again there’s no FCA touchpoint. That’s before you get to FSMA exemptions such as provision of information.

    I can see it’s frustrating for the vast majority of advisers who do the right thing. Seems to me that when the regulators follow the rule of law – something they’re frequently accused of NOT doing – they can’t win. But again I’ll repeat a point I made above: in the background, Project BLOOM is running. If you’re outside of that sphere – which I am too at the moment – you WON’T see what law enforcement is up to. These things take time, but they do work. But what would a mere LEO on international detached duty know, eh?

  10. Gordon Sinclair 19th June 2015 at 9:20 am

    Well done for reporting and I do hope that the regulator takes decisive action.

    Unfortunately, past experience, has shown that the FCA is extremely slow to take action, if ever.

  11. Giving comment of any form on any pension plan which constitutes a financial product is indeed ‘advice’. To ‘review’ a pension plan (eg ABC Insurance Co’s Personal pension and offering comment as to whether it is a poor performer, highly costed, etc or even offering to do that constitutes an invitation to engage which I understood was a regulated activity.

    The nuances between such and company schemes, etc are lost on the recipients of the messages and the peddlers of the approaches too.

  12. Does FCA have any jurisdiction over a firm it does not regulate? i believe that is what has prevented regulators from acting more strictly on this type of thing in the past. i hope it does.

  13. Advisers aren’t thinking beyond their own little parochial world about the nature and scale of this problem. To quote from a July 2014 FT Adviser article, “…pension fraud is a much wider issue.

    The following organisation are part of Project Bloom:
    • The Pensions Regulator
    • The Pensions Advisory Service
    • Financial Conduct Authority
    • HMRC
    • Money Advice Service
    • Action Fraud
    • National Fraud Intelligence Bureau
    • City of London Police”

    Have a look at these resources, for example:
    http://www.sfo.gov.uk/protect-against-fraud/current-scams/pension-scams.aspx
    http://www.nationalcrimeagency.gov.uk/9-uncategorised/194-project-bloom

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