Select Committee on Treasury Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the Financial Services Consumer Panel

  The Financial Services Consumer Panel (the Panel) was established by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) in December 1998 to represent the interests of consumers in advising the FSA on its evolving policy and monitoring its effectiveness. Subsequently, the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (the Act) made it a statutory requirement for the FSA to establish and maintain a Consumer Panel. The relevant sections of the Act came into force on 18 June 2001.

ROLE OF THE CONSUMER PANEL

  The main purpose of the Panel is to provide advice to the FSA. As such, it does not carry out responsibilities on behalf of the FSA. For example, it does not undertake consumer education; nor does it take up individual consumer complaints. The emphasis of the Panel's work is on activities that are regulated by the FSA, although it may also look at the impact on consumers of activities outside but related to the FSA's remit. The Panel has regard to the interests of all groups of consumers, including those who are particularly disadvantaged in the context of financial services.

  The Panel's principle functions are:

    (a)  To represent the interests of consumers by advising, commenting and making recommendations on existing and developing FSA policy and practices as appropriate;

    (b)  To speak on behalf of consumers by reviewing, monitoring and reporting to the FSA on the effectiveness of FSA's policies and practices in pursuing its duties;

    (c)  To keep under review and influence actual and potential developments in financial services to enable it to fulfil (a) and (b) effectively.

  In addition, the Panel can advise the Government on the scope of financial services regulation; and consider other matters that assist it in carrying out its primary functions.

REPRESENTATIONS

  Section11 of the Act brought an important part of the formal accountability of the FSA to the Consumer Panel into effect. This section, which came into force on 18 June 2001, states that if the FSA disagrees with a representation made by the Panel, it must give the Panel a statement in writing of its reasons for disagreeing. The same also applies to the FSA's relationship with the Practitioner Panel. No formal representations under the Act have been made since the provision came into effect.

HOW THE PANEL OPERATES

  The full Panel meets about 10 times per year. In addition, smaller "working groups" meet monthly to discuss specific issues in more detail and to consider the Panel's formal responses to FSA and other consultations. FSA staff are invited to these meetings to discuss FSA policy proposals. From time to time, the Panel also commissions research to obtain a better understanding of consumers' views and to identify areas of concern. An information note on the work of the Panel is prepared monthly for the FSA Board.

BUDGET

  The FSA's Board agrees a budget for Consumer Panel members' fees, expenses and any work commissioned by the Panel. The FSA also provides the Panel with a dedicated Secretariat of four staff to support its work.

ACCOUNTABILITY

  The Panel publishes an annual report on its activities in which the FSA's effectiveness is assessed. This year's report will cover the fifteen months to end March 2002 as the panel moves to align its financial year with that of the FSA. The Panel also has a website at www.fs-cp.org.uk which contains information about the Panel's work and its members. The Panel publishes its formal responses to FSA and other consultation documents on its website; details of its consumer research are also available there. The website contains a facility to enable consumers to contact the Panel's Secretariat, but makes it clear that the Panel is not in a position to pursue individual or specific complaints from the public about financial services.

MEMBERSHIP

  Panel members are appointed by the FSA Board following an open recruitment process based on the Nolan principles; the appointment of the Chairman must have the formal approval of the Treasury. Colin Brown became Chairman of the Consumer Panel with effect from 1 January 2001, having been Vice Chairman since its inception in December 1998.

  Members of the Panel have a wide range of relevant experience such as financial services regulation, working with vulnerable consumers, local authority enforcement, consumer protection, consumer education, front-line money advice, legal expertise, competition policy, public policy analysis, market research and the media. Biographies of the thirteen current Panel Members are attached.

January 2002

FINANCIAL SERVICES CONSUMER PANEL BIOGRAPHIES

Colin Brown (Chairman)

  Colin is a consultant specialising in consumer affairs, working with consumer organisations throughout the EU and in Central and Eastern Europe. Previously Deputy Director of Research at the Consumers' Association and Senior Fellow at the Policy Studies Institute, he has over 25 years' experience of research and development in social and consumer policy.

Ann Foster (Vice-Chairman)

  Ann formerly Director of the Scottish Consumer Council and has over 20 years' experience in the consumer movement. She is also a member of the Health Professionals Council and a member of Postwatch, the Consumer Council for Postal Services. She is also a consumer consultant to Oftel.

Jean Gaffin

  Jean chaired OFTEL's Advisory Committee on Telecommunications for Disabled and Elderly People until 31 December 1999 and is currently Acting Chair of Harrow & Hillingdon Healthcare NHS Trust. She has extensive experience of working on behalf of vulnerable consumers. Previous positions include; the Executive Director of the National Council for Hospice and Palliative Care Services and Chief Executive of Arthritis Care.

Yvonne Gallacher

  Yvonne is Chief Executive of Money Advice Scotland, set up in 1989 by the Scottish Consumer Council. She has over 13 years' experience of consumer credit/money advice issues and of working with vulnerable consumers in a variety of roles, including debt counsellor, trainer and manager. She has also lectured and co-authored a Guide to Money Advice in Scotland. Yvonne is presently a member of the FSA Consumer Education Forum and Credit union Consultation Panel. Yvonne is a member of the Scottish Consumer Council.

Harriet Hall

  Harriet is a solicitor with considerable experience of consumer policy and retail financial services. She is a former legal officer with the National Consumer Council, where she worked on the needs of low income consumers, banking, credit, mortgages, regulation of equity release and long-term care insurance, the Financial services and Market Bill and the proposed EU directive on distance selling of financial services.

Dianne Hayter

  Dianne is on the Board of both the National Consumer Council and of the newly established National Patient Safety Agency. She was formerly the Chief Executive of the Pelican Centre (a cancer charity) and prior to that had periods as the former Director of Corporate Affairs of the Wellcome Trust, Chief Executive of the European Parliamentary Labour Party, Director of Alcohol Concern, General Secretary of the Fabian Society, a journalist and trade union research officer. She is currently also a research student at Queen Mary College, London.

John Howard

  John is a solicitor with extensive experience of consumer issues as a former presenter of the daily consumer programme on Radio 4 "You and Yours". He is currently a freelance broadcaster and his work includes presenting personal finance television programmes. He is a member of the Mortgage Code Compliance Board.

Vinod Kumar

  Vinod is a social scientist with market research skills and extensive voluntary and public sector experience of policy analysis and research. Until recently, he was Head of Policy and Research at the Royal National Institute for Deaf People, and he has previously worked for the Commission for Racial Equality. Now retired, Vinod is currently a Non-Executive Director of the Barnet Primary Care Trust, and a member of the Consumer Liaison Group of the Medical Research Council.

Nick Pearson

  Nick is the National Money Advice Co-ordinator for the Federation of Information and Advice Centres. A career spent in advice organisations including the National Association of Citizens' Advice Bureaux where he was manager of the Money Advice Support Unit, he has particular experience of credit, debt and personal finance issues and of working with vulnerable consumers.

Paul Salvidge

  Paul is a former senior civil servant with experience of regulatory work, employment law, competition, consumer protection, telecommunications, financial services and company law. He was previously Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs Director at the Department of Trade and Industry.

Richard Smethurst

  Richard is Provost of Worcester College, Oxford University; previously a non-executive Director of IMRO, he chaired their Training Standards Panel. He has served as an economic adviser in Whitehall, and the Monopolies and Mergers Commission, where he was Deputy Chairman. Richard lectures widely on financial and economic topics to businessmen and adult education groups. He is President of the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education.

Dave Watts

  Dave is a partner in a media business which is involved in publishing, editing and journalism personal finance plays a large part in this. He is a former editor of "Which?" and "Money Which?" and former Assistant Director of Consumers' Association. He was also a policyholder representative on the Insurance Brokers Registration Council for nine years.


 
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Prepared 27 March 2002