Steve, as many of you may remember, became fed up with a claim firm to carrying out a fishing expedition with respect to a PPI policy he had not even sold. He decided to invoice the company for wasting his time and threatened legal action if it did not pay up. The firm caved in and sent him a cheque for £120.
I praised Steve and contrasted his actions to the pointless whingeing on the part of so many other financial advisers about issues over which they have no realistic chance of influencing, such as whether former FSA boss Hector Sants should receive a knighthood.
In addition, I made a pointed reference to the failure of “IFA trade bodies” to launch a concerted campaign aimed at stopping these ambulance-chasers in their tracks.
No sooner did my article appear than a pained online response from Apfa council member Neil Liversidge appeared below it, defending both his trade body and fellow-council member Alan Lakey, a prolific writer on the subject of claims firms, from accusations of inaction.
Neil wrote: “I have obtained a meeting on 24 January with the MoJ about this very issue and come February I shall be sueing a claim fabricator myself, for a contrived complaint that went nowhere but ruined my holiday last August.
“I get the impression that you sit there with a towel over your head penning vitriol rather than bothering to find out what we are actually doing.”
Despite his aggrieved tone, Neil somehow forgot to mention that Apfa – and its previous incarnation Aifa – failed to do anything significant on this issue in the 18 months or longer that Money Marketing has been covering the topic. Or if it has, it has successfully hid the fact from its members, certainly as far as the trade press is concerned.
In case I was mistaken, just before writing this column I spent hours trying to find out what, if anything, Aifa/Apfa had been doing on the subject. My many searches were not just on Money Marketing’s own website but also the wider internet. They included “Aifa + MoJ”, “Aifa + claims management”, “Aifa + claims”, “Aifa + PPI”.
Bear in mind that in the past few months alone, Money Marketing has covered the PPI issue more than 100 times, guess how many times Aifa/Apfa has spoken out on this matter?
The short answer is that are only a handful of comments by either version of the trade body. One was a response by former Aifa policy director Chris Hannant, who replied in October to the Ministry of Justice’s consultation paper on the issue two months earlier.
Hannant’s proposal was that “in the interests of consumer protection, we must ensure sufficient resources and expertise is applied… This means transferring regulation of CMCs to the new regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority.”
In December last year, after Steve Foreman’s letter to Money Marketing, Hannant, now at Apfa, was quoted as saying: “Advisers are perfectly entitled to seek damages for their loss of time and good luck to those that do.
“It is an issue for any individual firm or adviser to consider and do what they think is best. Each firm has to deal with things as suits their circumstances – it would not be for everyone as it takes a fair bit of time out of the day.”
Now, call me naïve, but that doesn’t strike me like a trade body champing at the bit to mount an all-out battle against claims chasing firms. Nor, somehow, do I see any of them quaking in their boots at the (non)prospect of Apfa squaring up to their disgraceful tactics.
Meanwhile, Neil Liversidge, who could be co-ordinating a concerted IFA campaign against the ambulance chasers, confines himself to grandiose – but utterly ineffective – antics, such as writing open letters to David Cameron on the issue, as he did last September.
I can just see Cameron interrupting all his other pressing matters of state to devote time to read Neil’s letter and act on it. Not.
Last week, Neil took his “campaign” one painful millimetre further forward, whereby an “exchange of letters” last year culminated in his planned meeting with MoJ officials. This follows his playing along to an Indian call centre operator called Jack, as reported in MM.
Neil must know his meeting with the MoJ is not the first. Last year, both Alan Lakey and Panacea Adviser chief executive Derek Bradley also met officials there and made the same points I suspect he will have made the other week.
Somehow, I can’t help feeling that the MoJ knows exactly what is happening out there. They know con merchants are rife, yet its willingness to police them is on a par with both the ABI and IBRC, who failed to stop PPI misselling in the first place.
So the question is not whether Neil has more fruitless meetings with the MoJ, but what his trade body actually does in practice to stop ambulance chasers in their tracks. On current evidence, my guess is very little.
Nic Cicutti can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org