For once, I find myself moderately inclined to agree with the stance taken by the FSA, in this instance, on its reluctance to provide an exhaustive set of specifications as to exactly what might constitute misselling.
If you think about it, this is a virtually impossible thing to achieve. The best one might reasonably expect is a clearly defined set of subject areas which need to be included in all letters of recommendation which, I believe, we already have.
At least as members of one of the better networks our practice possesses such a set of guidelines and, unlike our directly regulated colleagues, we have not had to plough through endless reams of so-called guidance notes from the FSA to pick them out. A bigger problem still lies in the attitude of the FSO.
A year or so ago, we arranged a multiple Pep transfer to a multi-fund Pep product and unfortunately it went wrong due to some errors in completing the application form.
These errors were quickly sorted out but the client saw this as an opportunity to complain and make a quick buck out of us. The list of lies he told was amazing but, upon inspection by our network's complaints investigation team, it was found that we had in fact covered in our letter of recommendation every single issue of which the complainant was claiming not to have been made aware. The complaint was rejected – thank goodness we take note of every guidance memorandum issued by our network.
Not content with this, though, the client insisted on referring the matter to the FSO, which also rejected all the points on which the client was claiming to have been misled.
However, the ombudsman then accepted the client's claim of worry and distress over the problems with which his application had been beset (no financial loss had been incurred) and ordered us to pay him £200 compensation.
This rather suggests an attitude on the part of the ombudsman which is considerably biased more towards the complainant than the IFA and is something which needs urgently to be addressed.
At least we have one thing from which to draw some comfort in that the FSA has finally stated fairly definitively that there will be no more hindsight reviews. For this, I suspect, we largely have Howard Davies to thank.
What a shame he is leaving.
WDS Independent Financial Advisers, Bristol