FCA cites pension freedoms as a driver of consumer harm

The FCA said there was “significant risk of harm” in the long-term savings market.

The FCA said there was “significant risk of harm” in the long-term savings market.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has cited the 2015 pension freedoms as one example of a driver of consumer harm.

In its latest business plan, the regulator outlined its key priorities for the upcoming years, one of which was to prioritise end outcomes for consumers, markets and firms. 

The FCA said there was "significant risk of harm" in the long-term savings market, in part due to consumers being given additional responsibility for "complex investment decisions" thanks to the pension freedoms in 2015, which shifted consumers to defined contribution pensions.

According to the FCA, consumers who fall victim to a pension scam lose an average of 22 years' savings, typically three times their annual earnings. 

The regulator said it would continue to focus on assessing suitability of defined benefit to defined contribution transfer advice and start assessing suitability of decumulation advice.

It added it will continue assessing developments in the financial support market, through its Retail Distribution Review and Financial Advice Market Review evaluation, to make sure they are meeting consumer needs.

Commenting on the publication of the plan, Stephen Lowe, group communications director at Just Group, said: "Yesterday marked the fifth anniversary of the pension changes that extended flexibility of income drawdown to the mass market. The reforms are popular but the FCA clearly has misgivings about whether they are delivering better outcomes for all."

Lowe added, "It is particularly concerned about consumers being exposed to more investment risk than they expected or can absorb, and that the decision-making support available is not working well enough.

"Although the reforms have put more responsibility on individuals, the regulator is determined to impose high standards to ensure firms act in consumers' interests. We can expect scrutiny of retirement advice to ratchet up in the coming months.

"It is unfortunate that some of the important work needed to build further safeguards for people who don't receive regulated advice - such as the introduction of investment pathways that was due this summer - may be delayed due to the impact of the coronavirus epidemic."

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