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Flummoxed by financial jargon? Send us your examples

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Financial jargon – the flummery surrounding such products as bank accounts, insurance products and investments – is often unnecessary, and can be costly.

A previous investigation by Which? has shown that, when faced with terms and conditions documents of Proustian (or at least Shakespearean!) length and complexity, it’s understandably difficult for members of the public to locate important information.

We called for banks to present their T&Cs in clear, concise, well-indexed and jargon-free documents that are easy for their customers to use. But it doesn’t always feel like banks have moved forward in this area.

We still receive queries about confusing financial jargon, and recent studies by other organisations have shown that financial providers are still using complex words that are difficult to understand.

Jargon-free T&Cs

We think that in order for you, the consumer, to be able to make the right choice, the nature of your financial products needs to be clear so that you know what you’re getting in to. In banking, jargon-free T&Cs could lead to more switching, and a more competitive market in which consumer needs are paramount.

And it’s not just banking where this matters. My work on financial regrets found that investment regrets were the most common among our members, often because financial jargon prevented would-be investors from understanding the nature of the products they were buying into.

We’re now on the hunt for examples of financial jargon to distill, focusing on three areas – banking, investments and insurance – although we’re happy to hear about any others you may have.

We’re interested to find out which financial terms annoy and confuse you the most – as well as any examples of unnecessarily complex terms that you think could easily be boiled down.

So, what’s the worst example of financial jargon you’ve come across?

Comments
Member

Think it has to be “deficit halved”. With no explanation that they’re talking in terms of %age of GDP when the majority of people will be thinking in terms of the amount in which case the deficit hasn’t halved.

Member

Flummery is not a word I would throw into an article on clarity. I doubt you mean to refer to the pudding or flattery so perhaps wordiness will be safer ! : )

Member

Obfuscation might be a more accurate pretentious word to use. However, in support of plain English, why not use derivatives of bewilder, mystify, puzzle, perplex, baffle, bemuse, befuddle.

Member

What annoys me most is terms & conditions that go into so much detail that few people take the time to read them. I would like to see a clear summary setting out the key information with links or references to further relevant detail.

The insurance sector provides some good examples in which there is a simple explanation of what is covered, what is not, and what significant changes have taken place since the previous year.

Member

Couldn’t agree more, and organisations guilty of this often increase our irritation by writing their T&C in dense ‘legalese’ which is almost impossible to follow. I have sometimes felt like writing to a company to suggest that if they wrote their conditions in Norwegian or Icelandic they would probably make just as much sense to ordinary punters. Banks are definitely the worst.

Member
Ray7033 says:
10 January 2015

I have just received a policy for house insurance which consisted of over 15 pages [I lost count!]. EIGHT pages were T&C in 4pt text. This is ridiculous. I am going to ask for a copy in at least 16 point as I am in my 80s and can’t see the letters let alone read them! I have no idea whether obfuscation is rampant or not but I have my ideas on that!

Member

I have long thought that Which? as a service to subscribers, or possibly to society, should actually work on a database of T&C’s.

This could be a translation into English as she is spoke or examples of the intent as it might apply. There could be a marking for its clarity in general, suitability, and warnings on what is not covered or an abuse.

Obviously this is not a trivial exercise but I am quite happy that it could be accomplished with the right amount of carrot and stick with the insurers. Also as the Indian venture is over there is around £3m in the kitty for Which? to spend.

There only so many things that can apply to insurance policies as T&C’s. Furthermore it may be possible and sensible to standardise T&C’s. What could be nicer than a Which? seal of approval that the T&C’s for your particular insurer are not onerous together .

Member

With new pension rules coming into force in April this year, unless people understand the tax implications of taking a lump sum and investing it, I predict they could be open to exploitation by rogue financial advisers and investment companies. I think a degree in finance will be necessary in order to find your way through the labyrinth of financial deals that are almost bound to be on offer.

Can anyone explain the purpose of bitcoins please.

Member

I used to deal with people daily on their finances, and planning for the longer term is a great stretch for many and I am filled with forebodings how this will pan out.

You may have noticed that the head of the Citizens Advice Bureau Gillian Guy has recieved a CBE in the New Year Honours list. Given her ready agreement that CAB would explain the pension ramifications despite her staff being overwhelmed with work and untrained for this type of advice I am very disheartened and think this will not do very much for her 21500 volunteers.

Apparently when the announcement was made that CAB would be involved ….

” The criticism was leveled at Ms Guy for remarks she made when it was announced that Citizens Advice had been appointed to provide face-to-face pension advice to those affected by the changes. She is quoted as saying that ‘People who have diligently saved year after year towards their retirement deserve to choose how to make the most of their pension pot’ which is on the face of it an endorsement of government policy. So, does the [Private] Eye have a point?

Whether or not you agree with the new pension rules the Eye’s description of CAB volunteers in the article as ‘well-meaning but amateur’ is grossly misleading. They help thousands of people every year with complex benefits, debt, housing, consumer and a host of other problems.
Citizens Advice Waverley like every other bureau in the country is an independent charity affiliated to the central organisation headed by Gillian Guy. If each bureau is to be able to continue to provide its local community with information and advice in the face of ever-increasing demands it will require continued guidance and support from Citizens Advice nationally and while this requires leadership it cannot be exercised unilaterally.

Ms Guy and her team will therefore doubtless ensure that every bureau will be consulted regarding any additional training and resources necessary to deliver personal pensions advice. Guidance will also be required on how to avoid recommending financial products to clients so that they can continue to be confident the advice they receive is independent – commercially if not politically.

Over to you Ms Guy”