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Lenders under fire for hiding failings by manipulating FSA

Which? says lenders have misled public after document reveals how CML influenced regulator’s findings

The mortgage market has been accused of misleading consumers by manipulating the results of recent FSA investigations to make them less negative.

Communications from the Council of Mortgage Lenders reveal that trade associations were shown the FSA’s communication on its equity-release mystery-shop 12 days before it went public and persuaded the FSA to alter it.

Lenders also influenced the final version of the FSA’s briefing note detailing its investigation into the raising of exit fees during a contract term.

Consumer body Which? says this means the public were not told the true implications of the findings and lenders managed to hide some of their failings.

On equity release, the CML’s communication says: “The original document took a more negative tone. We fed back these concerns and these were taken on board for the public version.”

On exit fees, it says: “We influenced the final version to better reflect the current position and not assume firms had acted unfairly, as might have been assumed from the initial draft.”

Which? principal researcher Teresa Fritz says: “This demonstrates how easily the industry can get the FSA to knuckle under. The FSA puts the industry’s needs before consumer protection every time.”

The CML has also partially blamed the FSA for the poor performance of dabblers in the equity-release market in its response to consultation into the regulation of home reversion.

It believes the FSA should use its powers to make the new exam mandatory for all equity-release advisers rather than allow the grandfathering of pre-M-Day qualifications.

Safe Home Income Plans announced recently that from August 2007, its members must only deal with fully qualified advisers. The CML refuses to implement such an initiative as it will not self-regulate its members.


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