Policy & Research
We are no longer working on this topic due to changes in our funding and remit. See our About us page for more information. The information below reflects our work up to the end of 2012.
Financial services are under the spotlight like never before. However, the interests of ordinary consumers can be swamped by the big ‘financial crisis’ issues. Our role is to make sure that the interests of consumers, especially those on low income, or at a disadvantage in the financial services market are understood and placed at the heart of decision making by industry and regulators.
What Consumer Focus is doing
The oversight of financial service markets is undergoing a comprehensive overhaul, we are working to make sure the interests of consumers are not lost in the process. From our Focus on Finance project to our engagement with the new regulatory bodies we are making sure the new regulation has the interests of consumers as its key objective.
It is not only the system of regulation that needs improving. Competition in areas such as current accounts is at a low and consumers have neither the impetus nor the information to enable them to switch supplier effectively. The amount and quality of information on charges, and contract terms as well as on customer service and complaints is poor and we take a hard look at how good the products and service standards really are.
There are millions of people at the margins of the mainstream financial markets who cannot take advantage of online and Direct Debit discounts, savings products and who have to rely on high cost credit. Consumer Focus stands up for those who have the least amount of power in these markets.
In February 2012, Consumer Focus joined forces with Age UK, Citizens Advice and Financial Services Consumer Panel to write to Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Mark Hoban MP (PDF 212KB), welcoming the Financial Services Bill. The letter also outlines some additional measures we would like to be included in the Bill to further improve financial regulation for consumers.
Consumer Focus response to the final report of the independent Sergeant review into simple financial products
13 March 2013
Christine Farnish, Chair at Consumer Focus, said: ‘This report on Simple Financial Products could mark a watershed moment in the evolution of retail financial services markets. ‘Simple products are long overdue. They would, at long last, provide consumers with the option of no frills, no catches products that people can understand and buy with confidence. [...]
7 December 2012
Commenting on new rules on insolvency law to encourage more banks to offer accounts to undischarged bankrupts, Mike O’Connor, Chief Executive of Consumer Focus, said: ‘We’ve seen a worrying trend of banks cutting back on the features and availability of basic bank accounts recently. Having a bank account is essential to get the best deals [...]
The Best of British Banking – Consumer Focus calls on banks to ensure the successes of the basic bank account are not swept away in a race to the bottom
2 November 2012
Consumer Focus’s report, “Best of British Banking”, shows that the basic bank account1 has been a great unsung success story, yet its achievements are under threat as more banks are reducing what these accounts offer. Royal Bank of Scotland Group (including RBS, NatWest and Ulster Bank) has joined Lloyds Banking Group in withdrawing access for [...]
Cause to complain – new report from Consumer Focus looks at complaint handling in energy, water, telecoms, Royal Mail and financial and legal services
19 October 2012
A review from Consumer Focus explores consumer experiences of complaining to companies in six important markets: legal services, gas and electricity, mail, telecoms, water and financial services. The research reveals that these different markets share similar issues regarding complaints handling. Other research from Consumer Focus suggests that one in six consumers have made a complaint [...]
more news on: financial services
5 November 2012
Basic bank accounts are an example of how the financial services industry can get it right. Initiated by the Financial Inclusion Taskforce in 2003 to tackle the problem of financial exclusion, basic bank accounts have succeeded in bringing the benefits of a bank account to millions of UK consumers. As our report shows, a fifth [...]
Dealing with dissatisfaction – Complaint handling in energy, water, telecoms, financial and legal services and Royal Mail
19 October 2012
This report looks at customers’ experiences of the complaints procedures in Royal Mail and five different markets: legal services, financial services, telecommunications, water and energy. It also looks at experiences of the ombudsmen services in the same markets.
24 May 2012
In the past decade, credit unions in Great Britain have trebled their membership and their assets have expanded four-fold. There is real potential for credit unions to expand further, both in terms of geographic reach and customer base.
more publications on: financial services