While a number of firms have improved their sales standards over the past year, the FSA says visits to 40 firms show there are still three key areas of widespread concern.
Many firms are still not giving customers clear information during the sales conversation, according the review. It is not being made clear that PPI is optional and customers are not getting full information about how much the insurance will cost.
The FSA says customers are still not being made fully aware there may be parts of the policy under which they cannot claim. Some firms are still failing to establish that the PPI policies they recommend are suitable because they are not collecting sufficient information from the customer.
Where customers are sold single premium policies, this is not always done with the best interests of the customer in mind – for example, where a choice between a regular or single premium is available, the sales conversation may be biased towards the single premium policy when the customer’s circumstances suggest this is not the most suitable option.
The study identified particularly poor standards among some secondary PPI providers, such as motor dealers and retailers.
The FSA has this year secured undertakings from firms and the agreement of trade associations to make the practice surrounding refunds on cancelled single premium PPI policies fairer and more transparent to customers.
It says it will follow-up “urgent remedial programmes” with a number of firms to improve their sales standards and will continue to pursue formal disciplinary action against firms who fall well below the required standards. The FSA will conduct further work next year to ensure that senior management are addressing the areas of concern and embedding the behaviours and standards expected.
The FSA is considering, as part of the existing wider review of the effectiveness of the regulatory regime for general insurance products, whether new rules are required in the area of PPI sales. It plans to publish a report on this wider review in Q1 2007 with any resulting changes coming into effect in Q4 2007.
FSA managing director of retail markets Clive Briault says:
“As we have made clear before, when sold properly PPI can provide valuable protection against changes in personal circumstances. But despite some improvements in standards, major weaknesses remain which go to the heart of the culture surrounding PPI sales.
“The bottom line is that customers should come away from the sale having been given the best possible chance of understanding that PPI is optional, what the policy will and will not cover and how much it costs. On the strength of our findings, the industry has further to go to demonstrate that customers really are being treated fairly in this market.
“There are also important messages here for consumers. They should be prepared to ask straightforward questions of sales staff when PPI is mentioned and we are publishing some top tips on this to help them to identify whether PPI is right for them.”