On September 7 2015, a number of changes were made to the Financial Services Register, which lists all firms who are authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and/or the Prudential Regulation Authority. The changes are aimed at making it easier for consumers to view relevant information about a firm they are considering doing business with.

The home page of the Register now has just one search box, where users can search by firm name, the name of an approved person within a firm, a postcode or a registration number.

The main page of a firm’s entry on the Register now lists information such as:

• Address and contact details
• Whether the firm is covered by the Financial Ombudsman Service and/or Financial Services Compensation Scheme
• The firm’s contacts for complaints, and if applicable, for insurance mediation
• The firm’s Companies House registration number
• The date on which the firm became authorised
• Whether the firm is a tied agent
• Whether the firm is registered under the Money Laundering Regulations
• The names of the firm’s approved persons
• Names of any appointed representatives the firm is responsible for
• The activities the firm is authorised to carry out, e.g. investment advice, insurance advice, investment management, lending, credit broking

For the first time, firms are included in the Register if the FCA is aware that they are providing financial services without authorisation. The FCA continues to list warnings about unauthorised firms on a separate page on its site, but concerns have been raised that consumers are not visiting this part of the site. Now, an unauthorised firm appears on the Register with the words ‘Status: Unauthorised’ alongside a warning symbol, all in a prominent pink coloured box. The same arrangements are in place for firms that are authorised but are known to be operating scams, or those that are regarded as ‘clone firms’.

Sometimes an authorised firm will adopt a very similar name to an existing regulated firm in an attempt to trick customers into thinking they are authorised. Cloned firms are often associated with cold calling by fraudsters, in that they use a name which appears to be that of a well-known reputable firm.

The most recent FCA warnings regarding unauthorised firms, as of September 7, concern Fundsaver Services Ltd, Ashmore Wealth Funds, De Vere Group, Unsecured Lends and Payday Loans Now. Of these, Ashmore, De Vere and Payday Loans Now are believed to have cloned the name of a legitimate firm.

The Consumer Credit Interim Permission Register has also been combined with the main register, so it is no longer necessary to visit a separate part of the FCA site to check if certain consumer credit firms are authorised.

The information shown in this article was correct at the time of publication. Articles are not routinely reviewed and as such are not updated. Please be aware the facts, circumstances or legal position may change after publication of the article.