Consumer watchdogs are investigating whether financial firms charge rip-off phone charges to customers.
The inquiry follows a complaint from consumer group Which? alleging the firms make customers pay unnecessary call charges when they phone to discuss their accounts.
The call for action follows more than 87,000 people signing up to a campaign protest against the charges.
Now, the Financial Conduct Authority plans to consult with the industry to make sure calls are charged at more affordable rates.
Christopher Woolard, the FCA’s director of policy, risk and research said: “Charging high call charges is unfair on customers who want help or need to make a complaint.
“The cost of calls, especially from mobiles, can be a worry for many people. The FCA would urge financial firms to revisit the rates they charge head of our consultation.”
Call cost concerns
Regulated financial firms must have a free channel for consumers who may want to complain. Some offer a Freephone number, but most expect complaints by post or online.
The FCA proposes to standardise rules for all financial firms and providers to cap call charges at the cost of a basic rate call.
Richard Lloyd, Which? executive director said: “We don’t see why banks or insurance firms should make money out of their customers who have to pay a premium to speak to them. A level playing field where all customer service calls are charged at basic rates by all financial firms is what the thousands of people who signed out petition said they want.
“Some banks have already agreed to do this, so why shouldn’t others cut costs for customers as well? This should happen sooner rather than later and customers should make their own minds up about those firms that do not act straight away.”
Warnings about bogus advisers
The FCA has also issued these warnings about bogus firms posing as regulated financial advisers:
- Omega Capital Group
- United Kingdom Tax Agency
Dealing with an unregulated firm
If you buy shares, save money or invest with an unregulated firm, you lose any protection offered by the Financial Ombudsman and the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. Broadly, you have no independent place to complain if the deal goes wrong and are unlikely to win any compensation.
Checking if a firm is regulated
Go to the Financial Services Register to check if a firm is regulated in the UK.