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Watchdog finds failings in half of automatic bond renewals

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The Financial Conduct Authority said it is concerned about the fairness of automatic renewals of fixed-term bonds, after it has found failings in more than half of firms reviewed.

Publishing the first part of its thematic review into automatic renewal, the regulator has found that about half of the firms surveyed offered contract terms or followed practices in issuing fixed-term bonds that were concerning.

Out of a sample of 30 firms, which included the largest retail firms in addition to firms appearing on best buy lists of bonds, 16 had shown elements that were worrying.

It found that some firms were using terms in their contracts, such as “appropriate”, that could be interpreted in the firm’s favour as opposed to the customer’s.

Some firms, the FCA found, were introducing automatic renewals during the terms of the original contracts and as such altering the terms the customer had agreed to.

Others didn’t give the customers enough notice ahead of the maturity of their bonds for them to be able to make an informed decision, it said.

Some firms also weren’t clear enough about opt-out proceedures for customers and made it awkward for them to move out of automatic renewals.

The FCA said all firms approached by it so far had acted on its recommendations.

The regulator will conclude its thematic review by looking into home and motor insurance policies, a report of which is due to be published in 2014.

It said the report would provide a basis to decide whether to intervene to ensure that customers are treated fairly when their financial products are automatically renewed.



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