It’s the New Year, and in the spirit of turning over a new leaf, the government is throwing out the old rule book to recast the way the banks are regulated. Great – but we want to make sure this watchdog works…
Avid readers of Which? Conversation will know we’re pretty excited about the Financial Services Bill. We gave evidence to the committee that was set up to examine the draft version.
The Bill represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to change how banks and financial firms are kept in line, and we’re determined to make sure that consumer protection is at the heart of the new system.
We want a watchdog, not a lapdog
So today, we launch our ‘Watchdog not Lapdog’ campaign. We want to make sure that the new financial regulator is the watchdog that consumers can count on, not a lapdog that panders to the interests of the banks.
Across our work we have seen how the current financial regulator, the Financial Services Authority, has failed to protect consumers from dodgy financial products and services.
We’re pleased that the government wants to provide the new regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), with the ability to remove dodgy products and ban misleading adverts. We hope that these powers, plus increased openness about its activities (such as which firms it’s investigating) should go some way to ensure that consumer protection is at its heart.
What will make the new watchdog a success?
To be the watchdog consumers need, the FCA must be:
- An open regulator that tells consumers what it does: We want the FCA to tell consumers when firms are found to have broken the rules, what it’s investigating and what it’s going to do to stop it.
- A strong regulator that stands up to the banks and promotes competition: We want the FCA to issue fines that are big enough to act as deterrents and promote competition by making sure products are transparent, simple to compare and easy to switch between.
- A proactive regulator that acts on issues before they become problems: We want the FCA to take a more proactive approach and ban dodgy financial products and misleading adverts before they cause problems. Lessons must be learnt from the payment protection insurance mis-selling scandal.
So if you agree that it’s about time we got a financial watchdog strong enough to stand up to the banks, support the campaign by telling the government you want a watchdog, not a lapdog – and share your thoughts in the comments below.
We’re also looking for a suitable dog to front our campaign. If you think you’ve a pooch perfect for the job, find out how you can nominate your dog to be the face of our campaign.
[UPDATE] – On Wednesday 22 February 17.30-19.30 Which? is hosting an event with the new head of the FCA, Martin Wheatley. This event, held in central London, will be a chance for people to share their experiences of the banks, insurance providers and other financial services that they use on a day to day basis, and tell Martin why he needs to make sure the FCA is the watchdog consumers want.
Now the Financial Services Bill is going through Parliament it’s more important than ever that Martin hears about your experiences. Its clear that Which? Conversation commenters have a lot of experience of the kind of things we want the FCA to stamp out, so if you want to attend the event please get in touch at: firstname.lastname@example.org or tell us about your experiences below.