SimplyBiz amended FCA template letters to Arch cru clients without the regulator’s permission when carrying out compliance work for adviser firms, Money Marketing can reveal.
The FCA launched its Arch cru consumer redress scheme in April, which required all firms which advised on the funds to write to affected clients inviting them to opt into the scheme using a template letter it supplied.
The original letters asked consumers to respond by ticking a ‘yes’ box if they wanted their case to be reviewed.
Support services firm SimplyBiz approached the regulator informally and, thinking it had permission to do so, amended the letter to include another tick box option for those wanting to say ‘no’ to inclusion in the scheme.
SimplyBiz made the letter available on its website for the firms it provides support services for to use. Money Marketing understands two firms used the amended letter.
SimplyBiz managing director Matt Timmins says: “In good faith and so that those firms involved in the redress correspondence could achieve the best possible response rates from consumers, we added a tick box to leave the consumer in no doubt that a response was required.”
An FCA spokesman says: “Our rules contain clear instructions on consumer communications and include template letters that firms are required to use.
“The opt-in letters do not include a tick box for consumers to indicate that they do not want to be part of the redress scheme, nor did we give any firm permission to include such a box.”
No regulatory action is expected to be taken against SimplyBiz on the matter, Money Marketing understands.
IFA Centre managing director Gill Cardy says: “The regulator was always very clear that, however unsatisfactory, the client letters had to be sent exactly as they had been prepared.
“SimplyBiz is in a high position of trust as a leading compliance support service to advisers who relied on their advice, and with this very simple action they have placed their affected members at risk.”
Last month the FCA raised concerns that opt-in rates for the Arch cru redress scheme are considerably lower at some advice firms than others. It wrote to a sample of firms asking them to explain why their rates are low.
There is no suggestion that the firms which used the SimplyBiz letter had lower than average response rates.