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FSA rejects IFAs’ requests under Information Act

IFAs have been outraged by the FSA’s decision to turn down a request for details of pension reviews made under the Freedom of Information Act.

The increasingly active IFA Defence Union has had the first of several Freedom of Information requests to the FSA rejected because the regulator says it would have been too costly to respond.

The defence union sent a request to the FSA demanding to know how many IFA firms were found to be fully in compliance during visits carried out by the regulator in relation to the pensions review.

In its response, the FSA says the costs of finding out the information would be above its cost limit set out by the Department of Constitutional Affairs. Under the Act, which became law at the beginning of this year, public bodies are required to disclose certain information, provided it is not too costly to do so.

These regulations provide that for the FSA, the cost limit is £450 at the rate of £25 per person per hour. The regulator’s reasoning is that since the information requested is not held on a central database as each firm has a separate file and there were more than 600 company visits made from 1997, it would take well over 18 hours to retrieve this information.

The defence union is preparing to send the request back to the FSA, demanding that it goes through the files until the cost limit is reached and that any firms that are found to be compliant in this time are revealed.

The refusal comes as no surprise to Norwest Consultants principal Harry Katz.

He says: “It is freedom of information as long as it does not cost too much. Isn’t that ridiculous? It is like all these bits of legislation, it looks good it tastes good but it is rubbish.”

The FSA did not comment on the matter.

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