Will the FCA stop the rise of the claims culture?

The rise of the claims culture continues unabashed, dismally trumpeted by a blitz of automated phone messages instructing that we should all claim compensation for PPI missales – via the caller, of course. The surge in newspaper adverts on misselling has also plumbed new depths of shamelessness and deceit.

This relentless push is inspired by the unrelenting Americanisation of the UK but part of the responsibility lies with the current and previous regulator which derived vigour from portraying the consumer as always on the end of a scam and of implying that such scams emanated from all parts of the industry.

In addition, the appetite of the FOS for publicising its services at every turn also lends itself to the accusation of claims incitement. The US effect is incorrigible and may be impossible to reverse but the negativity of bad regulation can be, maybe not just yet though.

During the last week, my office has received six automated calls where the recorded message, in friendly newsreader tones, assured me that I am able to claim for my PPI missale and my recent injury, dodgy pavement if I remember rightly.

Disturbingly, this torrent of misinformation works, as confirmed by the FOS in its recent newsletter which highlighted that 45 per cent of PPI claims stem from third-party introductions.

Some weeks back, a long-standing client telephoned me declaring that she had received a phone call about claiming for missold PPI insurance. “And why are you phoning me”? I asked. “So that I can make a complaint”, she explained.

I enlightened her that she did not have a PPI plan and she dutifully accepted this terrible reality and ended the call.

One the plus side, I can say that at least this unremitting tosh is specific and normally enables listeners to judge whether or not they are, or think they are, affected. Other, even less savoury claims-mongers, are taking their advertising to new subterranean levels. This suggests desperation or perhaps the road to wealth. No doubt this will become clear in due course.

Last week, while scanning a London evening paper, I chanced across a big claims-monger advert advising me that I could be “owed thousands without even knowing it”. Excited by this good fortune, I avidly read on. It explained that its business is “winning compensation for holders of life policies and investments – whether or not you believe there is a problem with them”.

Apparently, any plan taken out since April 1988, when regulation first reared its head, is fair game. The advert focused on the direct-sales companies, banks and building societies which we know are easier targets than IFAs.

Could this focus be down to IFA sales practices being superior? Or could it be due to the disagreeable practice whereby some insurers pay compensation to a certain level without bothering to investigate? Both, I would conjecture.

So, will the Financial Conduct Authority take up the FSA’s baton and continue to espouse the fiction that misselling and bias is endemic throughout the industry or will it seek to provide some kind of balance? The FSA’s recent Approach To Regulation paper advised six regulatory principles, one of which states “that consumers should take responsibility for their decisions”.

Now just imagine, if that ever should occur, there would be no claims-mongers, far fewer staff at the FOS and whatever regulator is in temporary existence and a conse-quent reduction in fees.

Alan Lakey is partner at Highclere Financial Services