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Panel claims the regulator’s tests are statistically useless

The FSA’s mystery shopping and thematic exercises have been condemned as useless by the financial services practitioner panel.

It claims that the small sample sizes used by the regulator mean there is little to glean from findings despite the FSA placing great emp- hasis on the results of its quality of investment adv- ice and equity-release advice surveys released this week.

The FSA has also been slammed by the panel for creating “second-tier regulation through the back door” through press releases, Dear CEO letters, speeches and good practice guides.

It says the quality of the FSA’s staff must improve and reiterated concerns expressed by the mortgage industry that the regulator is trying to get providers to police brokers via treating custom- ers fairly. The FSA says it will issue a formal response to the panel’s report shortly.

The FSA’s mystery shopping of investment advice sampled 50 firms. Consumer body Which? is sampling 60 firms as part of its mystery shopping into the quality of pensions and income pro- tection advice, with the results due to be published in September.

The FSPP says: “Regarding the release of thematic work and mystery shopping, there are anxieties over general conclusions being drawn from often small sample sizes that have little statistical relevance.”

FSA Compliance Consultants managing director Mazhar Manzoor says: “There is a real danger that results may be used to draw invalid conclusions, as sometimes sample sizes are inadequate.”

Savills Private Finance associate director Melanie Bien says: “Consistently bombarding consumers with information can be damaging.”

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