Office for National Statistics data might show that nine million people in the UK have been forced to borrow additional sums as a result of financial difficulties caused by the pandemic. However, a new report by financial consultancy LCP has also revealed that the health emergency has created 6.4 million ‘accidental savers’, who have managed to reduce their outgoings significantly whilst retaining their job. Many of these have benefitted to the tune of several thousand pounds.
The Financial Conduct Authority has issued its finalised guidance for how firms should treat vulnerable customers. It follows the publication of the Vulnerable Lives survey, which showed that the Covid-19 pandemic had increased the number of vulnerable consumers, to the extent that the majority of UK adults are now potentially vulnerable.
- The FCA has released the FG21/1 finalised guidance on treating vulnerable customers fairly:
The FCA has finalised guidance for FCA regulated firms on how to treat vulnerable customers. The FG21/1 document has updated examples and diagrams from its predecessor G3/20 released last year. the FCA’s definition of vulnerable customers continues to be “someone who, due to their personal circumstances, is especially susceptible to harm, particularly when a firm is not acting with appropriate levels of care”. Firms should rely on this guidance in conjunction with FCA handbook provisions and TCF rules to best ensure that they handle vulnerable customers to the standard that the FCA expects. Scott Robert has written an article summarising and highlighting key points of the guidance which can be found here fca-guidance-for-firms-on-the-fair-treatment-of-vulnerable-customers.
- A quarter of UK adults have low financial resilience according to the FCA’s financial lives survey: The Financial Lives Survey is the FCA’s questionnaire that is sent to a sample of consumers to measure and gain insight into each consumer’s financial circumstances and history of engagement with financial service firms. The recent ‘Financial Lives 2020’ publication initially covered the period from August 2019 to February 2020 in consumer responses, however an extra survey was conducted in October 2020 to factor in the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. According to the October survey, 27.7 million UK adults displayed characteristics of vulnerability and low financial resilience. This is a 15% increase from the initial survey ending in February demonstrating the increased impact of the pandemic on people’s lives. The initial survey had 16,000 respondents whereas the additional survey in October had 22,000 respondents. The full report by the FCA and its further findings can be found here FCA financial-lives-survey-2020.pdf
- ICO launches a data analytics toolkit for data controllers and processors: The Information Commissioner’s Office has launched a toolkit for any data controller and processor who are at the start of their data analysis cycle. This toolkit is designed to assist controllers and processors in identifying key risks and any infringements on the data rights of the data subject before data analysis is conducted. The ICO has stressed that this toolkit is not ‘a pathway to absolute compliance’ but is a useful starting point for data analysis procedure. The ICO defines data analytics as ‘the use of software to automatically discover patterns in data sets (where those data sets contain personal data) and use them to make predictions, classifications, or risk scores.’ Access to the toolkit can be found here ICO-toolkit-for-organisations-considering-using-data-analytics.
- FCA have published a Memorandum of Understanding with The Commission for Equality and Human Rights: The FCA have liaised with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to establish a common approach with the Equality Act 2010 and by extension general protection for people within the financial services market. The EHRC is the regulator of the Equalities Act which ‘enforces people’s rights to fairness, dignity and respect.’ This shares an overlap in responsibility with the FCA’s principles and approach to treating customers fairly as well as other principles for business. As such, the FCA and EHRC have published the Memorandum to outline the areas of cooperation both public bodies will assist each other with. The Memorandum outlining the level of cooperation can be found here FCA-publication.pdf
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This month the Financial Conduct Authority (“FCA”) have issued a guidance consultation on vulnerable customers, ‘Vulnerable Customers – Finalised Guidance FG21/1’. Ensuring the protection of customers, particularly those who are vulnerable, has always been a key focus of the FCA, however its importance is heightened now more than ever due to the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic.
The Information Commissioner’s Office has fined a Nottingham-based marketing company £120,000 after it was found to have made 159,461 unsolicited direct marketing calls relating to life insurance. The calls continued over a five-month period between May and October 2019 and were all made to consumers who had registered with the Telephone Preference Service and should therefore not have received any marketing calls.
Economic good cheer has been in short supply of late, but February saw the consumer confidence index rise to its highest level in 12 months.
A new Financial Conduct Authority study has shone a spotlight on the typical circumstances of different individuals who experience financial difficulties. The team of FCA and external experts carried out a comprehensive analysis of the credit files of almost 500,000 UK adults over a three-year period from 2015 to 2018.
The Help To Buy scheme in England has been extended by two months until May 31 2021, with the coronavirus pandemic estimated to have delayed construction of some new homes by as much as eight months. The extension only applies where an application is already in progress.
The Financial Conduct Authority’s latest Financial Lives survey shows that 53% of UK adults are now potentially vulnerable. It reveals that 27.7 million adults in the UK demonstrate characteristics of vulnerability such as poor health, low financial resilience or recent negative life events.
The Financial Conduct Authority has taken enforcement action on a number of occasions recently relating to unsuitable pension transfer advice. However, its latest action in this area is of a slightly different nature, as the firm in question has entered liquidation and the usual enforcement process may therefore be less appropriate.