Less than a third of consumers are aware of the existence of the FSA, according to a report by BMRB International.
The awareness figure is higher among people who own products which are subject to FSA conduct of business rules, with half of people with personal pensions or free-standing AVCs and 61 per cent of people with an equity Isa, unit trust or Pep aware of the FSA.
More than a quarter of those surveyed are aware that the regulator aims to ensure that appropriate selling practices take place and a fifth know that only appropriate people or firms can work in financial services.
When asked to assess the risk profiles of various products, there was much higher awareness of the risk attached to savings accounts and direct shares but less clarity concerning equity Isas or with-profits bonds. For example, 17 per cent of people with an equity Isa believe it to be a lowrisk product.
Nearly two-thirds of people say they assume that some form of financial regulation is being carried out, with 30 per cent being aware that the FSA fulfils this role. However, 37 per cent are unaware that there is any type of financial regulation.
Lack of knowledge about the regulatory framework was more likely to be the case among the younger and older age groups, with nearly two-thirds of 16-24-year-olds and half of those aged 65 and over unaware that there is any financial regulation. The age groups 35-44 and 45-54 are most aware.
Author of the report Paul Hunter says: “Knowing about the FSA is not an end in itself and indeed for many this knowledge may not be necessary. Many consumers will benefit from the work of the FSA indirectly, for example, as a result of the treating customers fairly initiative, and being aware of regulation can also help consumers make informed decisions.
“But if consumers have unrealistic expectations of what a regulatory regime can provide, it could shape their behaviour inappropriately.”