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Which? accused of ‘misleading’ consumers over calls to publish advice charges online

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Which? has been accused of “misleading” consumers with research that shows two-thirds of advisers provide no charges information online.

Research published by the consumer campaign group shows that of 500 advice firms’ websites, 70 per cent do not publish their charges online.

It says of the 115 sites which claim to show fees, 76 per cent do not give enough detail to give “a real indication” of what a customer would pay.

Which? claims just 2 per cent of the sites it looked at “publish genuinely useful information for clients including a clear breakdown of charges”.

The group says only 33 sites allowed its researchers to download a key facts document.

Of 206 firms contacted via phone, 31 per cent provided a rough idea of fees, but 12 per cent refused to divulge costs.

Which? is calling on the FCA to review whether it should be mandatory for advisers to display fees on their websites.

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd says: “Good IFAs have nothing to fear by publishing fees online and we believe that if some firms can do it, then the others have no excuses. We need IFAs to be much more open about charges or the regulator should step in and change the rules.”

Apfa director general Chris Hannant says: “This is utterly misleading. It gives the impression that you cannot find out how much advice costs which is unhelpful.

“Advisers have to disclose their costs face-to-face so charges will never come as a surprise to a customer.

“Which? is adding to the sense of fear around going to see an adviser, so they are actually damaging consumers’ interests just for the sake of the headline. The message you take away from the press release is you shouldn’t go to an adviser because it’s all a bit murky.”

But Hannant says the more advisers can do to give consumers an indication of fees online, the more likely consumers are to engage.

He says: “Approaching an adviser without any idea of what it will cost can be intimidating: it’s like walking into a shop with no prices.”

Personal Finance Society chief executive Keith Richards says: “This report has a very narrow focus and without covering the benefits of advice, risks continuing to fuel mistrust of the sector.

“It is fair to acknowledge that there is often confusion over fee structures, but that is true of all professions and reflects the fact that fees depend on clients’ individual needs.”

Philip J Milton & Company managing director Philip Milton says: “If some advisers can publish indicative costs on their sites, then everyone should be able to.

“However, consumers should be made aware that they can speak to an adviser to get an idea of the cost of advice for their circumstances, and that fees will always be disclosed to them before they agree to go ahead.”

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Comments

There are 16 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Which? charges a fee for Mortgage Advice and is very clear on its website about how much and when that is paid but it then goes on to state “On most mortgage applications we receive a
    commission fee from the lender on completion. This is separate from our administration fee and is an additional fee we receive.”
    I think this needs to be clearer to the consumer perhaps Which? can publish a table of examples to make sure they are not accused of misleading consumers 🙂

  2. Do accountants publish their fees online?

    Do lawyers/solicitors publish their fees online?

    The majority do not because it depends on what work needs to be done and it cannot be compared to “walking into a shop with no prices” because you are not buying a product. The advice service depends on the complexity so at best a rough estimate can be provided, e.g up to 3% initial charge etc. Until the FF is completed face to face and what work to be done is agreed.

    They are focusing on the wrong issue – advice cost is not usually a problem once the client understands what the value. The issue they need to deal with is educating the public about the value behind independent advice and the benefits of using an adviser.

    The level of financial education in the UK is generally very poor compared to that of other developed countries. Most people don’t even know what a pension is!!

  3. More nonsense about costs. You cannot compare the cost of something until you know the value of it. How would publishing a list of the cost of cars, for example, be useful?

  4. Any chance we can see the cost of WHICH mortgage advice as it is only partly disclose up full on it’s website or even the level of kick backs WHICH receives from providers i.e COMMISSON!

    Does the client know that there maybe better direct deals that have no COMMISSION.

    Is WHICH really whole of market if it is receive COMNISSION from produces it recommends after all it is very quick to criticize other advice firms.

    People in glass houses comes to mind.

  5. Many years ago I subscribed to Which and after a while a realised that their ‘best buy’ was invariably the cheapest. I had already learned that the cheapest seldom offered the best value for money. I cancelled my subscription.

  6. I don’t know why everything isn’t handed over to the “experts” at Which? who clearly know the best way to do absolutely everything.

  7. Great, instead of seeing how we can better serve our Industry (Profession?) we just take the negative approach and attack WHICH? It is not rocket science to put up a schedule of indicative fees in order to give Clients a Clue. Why is everybody scared of being fee transparent, not greedy and Treating Clients Fairly. Answer: because the FCA does nothing and therefore they can get away with it!! It really is a sad state of affairs when Professional Financial Advice is compared to a Price List of Cars!
    Surely I am not alone in this?

  8. Email sent to Which PR – jo.hooper@which.co.uk

    Hi Jo

    I’m a freelance writer as well as an IFA.

    I’ve been searching online for an address where I can write to Which? but without success.

    You don’t seem to want people to be able to locate you. Why is that?

    Where can I find online a listing of what all your management team are paid?

    If it’s not online, why not?

    Can you please let me have that information?

    If not why not?

    I note your call for IFAs to publish their fees online. So, what’s sauce for the goose and all that!

    I look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible please.

    Neil F Liversidge
    West Riding PFS Ltd
    Castleford

  9. Laurence Dalziel 26th October 2015 at 9:45 am

    A fool knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

  10. By Which decrying all other advisor they imply they are above and separate from such practices which they are obviously not. Isn’t this just effectively miss-advertising by headline grabbing to paint themselves in a superior light? This is why I would be surprised if any advisor of experience still subscribes when considering all their past activities. Consumer champion credibility is a thing of the past as they sold their soul years ago. As such, I wish their free press would dry up and herald them for what they have become; hypocrites and profiteers.

  11. The way I see it is; We are an easy target for any-one to have a pop at, be it, regulator, consumer panel, MP, journalist, or consumer mag like Which.

    You can bet the very first thing to be questioned is cost, or conduct…. any good, that any of us do is really just kept in the confines of our own little bubble, (business and clients).

    I have recently taken on a new client (personal recommendation) And after a month of visits, fact finding, analysis, recommendation and presentation, she made a passing comment on how many times I talked, documented and discussed costs and fees, her slightly annoyed tone in comment was “bloody hell D you have gone over this at every visit (4 so far) you have documented it in three different bits of paper two which I have signed, you have clarified and sought my understanding, at every turn for the final and last time I am happy with your fees and happy with the overall costs just get on with it ! (and note this was on top of the reasoning behind any recommendations and advice)

    If any-one from Which is reading this comment, just spare a thought as to why our costs my seem excessive or unclear to document in plain English ? we have to budget not only for the time it takes to transact the most simplest of tasks, the regulation in all its forms for doing said task, PI to cover any holes that might have been unseen, and the most important, a bit of income for oneself ! also the advice and cost process may be different for any specific area, pension, tax planning, IHT, protection, savings and investing !

    Most of the time we go in blind, we have to find out whats broke then work out how to fix it !!!

    But then, you like most others, know the cost of everything but the value of sweet F all !!

  12. As often the case, already alluded to by an earlier commenter, Which? almost always focus on all the wrong issues when dealing with intangible products & services. Are there really many advisers nowadays who won’t offer a free initial discussion in which these very subjects, to put a prospective client at erase and discuss fees and charges to some satisfaction and clarity?

    Which? have repeatedly proved over many years that they simply can’t, and are constitutionally unable, to convey the right message in these areas – their input is almost always counter-productive for the consumer – but they can’t or won’t see that.

    This – when stirred with their apparent inability to see their own hypocrisy and shameless profiteering – make them a largely pointless and worthless commentator on these types of subject. Lawnmowers/TV’s/Washing machines etc etc: they’re pretty much fine and with useful input – intangible and complex areas: seemingly out of their depth and a useless distraction…

  13. I would love to find a building/plumbing/car repair/ bank/ solicitors / architects that publish their fees online. It simply does not happen. This anti-IFA rhetoric is embarrassing & irritating in equal measure.
    It is time Which? Magazine were sued successfully by a reader, for say, a few hundred £k, for giving advice via their holier than thou editorial, which backfires….That would make my day.

  14. I don’t think I want to be found on-line! I will hand pick my clients if that is OK with Which? Enough out there without trawling the world-wide web, all that seems to bring is aggravation(ask Talk Talk if you can get hold of them!). I reckon we advisers have enough to cope with on other fronts already (I may be getting old, but I have seen what systems work and what do not and what does work in the internet age costs a lot more money than mere mortals can afford to risk these days!).

  15. I gave up on Which? several years ago, like others here used to subscribe, but often found their “best buys” were just the cheapest and after buying a couple found they were also the most useless. Now they sell their “Best Buy” logo to it seems anyone, does that sound like a clash of interest?
    To me Which? is just looking for headlines all the time. Has anybody taken any notice of them for years? From the comments here yes we do, it would be better if everybody just ignored them and let proper consumer groups with no self interest do their job, then in the future we may be able to say Which?, Who??

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