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Treasury shuts down copycat pensions guidance website

The Treasury has forced a website to close over concerns the firm was passing itself off as the Government’s official Pension Wise guidance service.

The Financial Times reports pensionwisechoices.co.uk has been shut down after the newspaper alerted the Treasury and the FCA to the site’s existence.

The site’s domain name seems to have been registered on 13 January, the day after the Treasury revealed the guidance service underpinning pension freedoms was to be branded as Pension Wise.

Pensionwisechoices.co.uk also made references to the “new Government scheme guidance”.

The site was taken down on Monday afternoon.

The Treasury told the FT it would act sooner to “ensure consumers are not misled”.

It added: “We have reported this site to Action Fraud and the Advertising Standards Authority, as well as taking steps to stop them from using that website name.

“If the site remains in its current form when the new legislation comes into effect its owner is likely to face sanctions under the new criminal offence.”

In a statement to the newspaper, pensionwisechoices.co.uk said: “If there has been any misunderstanding caused by our website, we apologise.

“It was our intention to provide a link between the general public seeking independent pensions advice and independent financial advisers that are regulated by the FCA.

“To ensure no member of the public is unintentionally misguided, we have removed the domain from general view with immediate effect. Based on the concerns that have been mentioned, we will appraise the look of the website and consider our options from here.”

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Comments

There are 10 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Doesn’t take long for people to try and jump on a huge bandwagon does it

  2. We all know there is likley to be a flood of questionable sites, taking advantage of the new freedoms in order to liberate pensions. However there will also be many start-ups, wanting to provide a genuine and honest service to work within the law, but wanting to do things a little differently in order to stand out.

    I do not want to see innovation tarred with the same brush as con-artists, and therefore hope the regulator sees worth in providing guidance to assist the start up of genuine businesses.

  3. The so called marketing companies/telesales operations need bringing in line with the FS regulations completely. Right now too many operate in that grey area of the law and avoid scrutiny.

  4. Makes me laugh I tried to close down a company which registered PRISM IFA Ltd and we are PRISM Independent Financial Advisers Ltd. I was told IFA could stand for anything such as International Football Association, when I said their advisers they told me they would not act.

    We have now purchased the PRISM IFA Ltd when they closed, but it just goes to show when it suits them?

  5. @ Anne Uity

    “I do not want to see innovation tarred with the same brush as con-artists, and therefore hope the regulator sees worth in providing guidance to assist the start up of genuine businesses.”

    They do via their by a dedicated dept. “team innovate” , Make of that what you will !

    Meanwhile back to the article, good news but I fear this will have not even scratched the surface !!

  6. Obviously it’s illegal to misappropriate the term pensionwise and for a firm to imply (falsely) that its services are directly connected with or part of the Government’s new guidance service. However, in view of the fact that most of the personnel who will be providing the latter will be neither qualified, FCA-authorised or regulated, is it illegal for an organisation to offer a similar service provided it makes no claims to being officially part of the Government’s new guidance service? Come in (or call us) for a chat without either costs or obligation and we’ll give you a general outline of the available options. We aren’t here to provide specific advice or to sell you anything but, if you agree that you may well benefit from proper advice, we’ll put you in touch with an FCA-authorised advisory firm. All such a firm would be doing would be promoting the potential benefits of talking to a properly authorised adviser. In theory, anyone could do that, couldn’t they?

  7. @ DH

    Team innovate? Ah yes, the department who only make communications on February 30th…

    All cynicism aside, a campaign focussed on educating the public on what each type of service can provide will be invaluable to potential retirees. Why not make it compulsory for providers, administrators etc. to issue a single page ‘how Pensions wise/financial advisers can help your retirement planning’ leaflet to clients over age 54?

    I’m going to have to be careful, or I might be press-ganged into the team!

  8. “The Treasury told the FT it would act sooner to “ensure consumers are not misled”

    Umm, hello Mr FT, I wonder if you could report another website sure to mislead consumers, it’s called:

    “Money Advice Service.org”

    It doesn’t give advice, but the word in its website name just really appears to me to be really kind of similar to, hmmm, ‘advice’.

  9. If, as claimed, pensionwise’s only mission objective is/was “to provide a link between the general public seeking independent pensions advice and independent financial advisers regulated by the FCA”, is it just another lead generation service funded by IFA’s who pay for each lead on a case by case basis?

    I receive a couple of calls a month from outfits offering either a pension review service or (as an adviser) leads to people who’ve said they’d like their pension arrangements reviewed. For the former, the promise is always the same ~ the review service is FOC. For the latter, acceptance of any leads is conditional upon you agreeing not to charge for your review.

    This, were people to realise it, can only mean that the object of every review is to persuade you to transfer into an alternative plan with an adviser fee. How many reviews, one wonders, conclude that the best course of action is to leave things as they are? Precious few, if any, I’ll bet. Is it any wonder that the FCA has concerns about contingent charging?

  10. Interesting to speculate what the Treasury plans to do about the considerable number of dodgy Brit expat FAs who fled back home from their overseas havens after the LM fiasco surfaced!

    ‘Nothing’ would be the result of such speculation – one such crook opened an online financial advisory site catering for expat retirees within a short time of his arrival in his old Lancashire stomping grounds. Expats who’d lost massive amounts managed to get it shut down fast, but the guy and those like him are obviously still operating in the UK, using offshore product providers with even less ethics.

    These days, ‘expat’ means ‘excluded’ from any UK government help or support.

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