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Raising standards on moves to treat customers fairly

Open letter to the FSA

The study published by the FSA on “treating customers fairly after the point of sale” made many valid comments which are supported by the Co-operative Insurance Society.

The FSA states that unrealistic expectations are often the product of badly written information that fails to point out the risks or relevant features of the product in a clear and understandable way and that new standards of complaints&#39 handling together with a policy review of the information provided to customers after they have bought a product is also planned.

Insurers recognised some time ago that many of the problems relating to persis-tency levels were not about the nuts and bolts or technical details of products or how they perform but about how they have been sold and about giving customers information they can fully understand.

Although regulation insists that customers are given information such as key features documents, financial jargon has meant that these have often been unintelligible to some people.

In order to devise a method of ensuring that people taking out financial products are properly informed and kept in the picture, a rigorous and comprehensive set of tests has been agreed which companies must meet in order to apply for the Raising Standards Quality Mark.

These tests cover infor-mation given to the customer, including an explanation of the products and how they work and clear information about charges, together with standards covering the appropriateness of products.

It entails rewriting such things as illustrations, key features and annual statements. In the case of CIS, this is almost 800 documents. It takes an enormous amount of comm-itment and investment to apply for accreditation which will be independently assessed by the Pensions Protection Invest-ments Accreditation Board, which will award the quality mark and also have the power to strip a company of accreditation if it does not continue to meet the required standards.

The FSA has now recog-nised the pioneering work we are doing to raise standards and will hopefully link in with the scheme in their review and remove any unnecessary duplication of effort while delivering enhanced customer awareness to enable them to make an informed choice about the company and product they will buy.

On this occasion, the companies working towards accreditation of the Raising Standards initiative are ahead of the game.

Martin Clarke

General manager (marketing),

CIS, Manchester

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