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FSA must be more decisive on single premiums

I have had my fair share of abuse from people who seem to be fed up with me banging the drum about consumer protection and the raw deal that too many people get when buying payment protection insurance.

They seem to think I derive some sort of pleasure from always being the one to knock the industry and lay bare its problems for all to see.

It is almost as if by speaking out about the problems, people think I am airing the industry’s dirty laundry in public and would be best served by whispering my comments behind closed doors.

The truth of the matter is that it is boring to have to stand up and criticise industry practitioners and legislators on a continual basis but at every opportunity, they fail to seize the initiative and deal with the problems effectively.
Last week’s announcement by the FSA was a classic example. In coming to an agreement with the PPI industry over the refunds offered in relation to single-premium policies, the regulator has simply capitulated to providers’ demands.

Despite the FSA claiming the agreement was “designed to make refunds clear and fair for all consumers,” the truth of the matter is that it has fudged the whole thing.

Why, when consumer protection is its very raison d’etre, did the FSA not insist on pro rata refunds for such policies? Why did it allow any leeway for firms on this and simply ask that the refunds were calculated “fairly”?

Principled regulation is all very well and it has been introduced to excellent effect in many areas but there is also a time and a place for setting out clear boundaries and this is one of them.

Yes, it is good that the industry is moving away from nil refund clauses in contracts but why not go the whole hog and define what does and does not constitute a fair refund? Why leave consumers in any doubt?

Things may be moving in the right direction but the speed at which they are going is incredibly frustrating and simply leaves the door wide open for consumers to be mistreated in the interim.

More decisive action on single-premium policies would slam the door shut once and for all and allow everyone to move on.

Simon Burgess
Managing director,
Britishinsurance.com

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