FCA clamps down on investment platform exit fees

Mark Johnson's picture
by Mark Johnson

The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has today set out a package of measures to help consumers who invest through investment platforms more easily find and switch to the right one for them.

The package - set out in the final report of its Investment Platforms Market study - includes proposed FCA rules and actions industry is taking forward.

“While the market is working well for most of its consumers, the package we’ve announced today should make it less expensive and time-consuming for investors to shop around and move to the platform that best meets their needs”, said Christopher Woolard, Executive Director of Strategy and Competition at the FCA.

“As part of that, we believe it is right that we restrict exit fees, so people can move their money freely.”

Switching difficulties addressed

The FCA found that while competition is generally working well, some consumers and financial advisers can find it difficult to shop around and switch to a platform that better meets their needs. Consumers can find it difficult to switch due to the time, complexity and cost involved - driven in part by the exit charges they incur and difficulties switching between unit classes.

To address the issues uncovered, the FCA said it is consulting on rules to allow consumers to switch platforms and remain in the same fund without having to sell their investments, and is proposing to ban or cap exit fees.

The proposed restriction on exit fees would apply to platforms, and also firms offering a comparable service to retail clients. The FCA is seeking views from the wider market about how a restriction could work, before consulting on any final rules.

Industry responds

Online investment platform AJBell welcomed FCA moves

Andy Bell, chief executive at investment platform AJ Bell, welcomed the UK regulator’s measures and said the clampdown on exit fees would not materially affect trading. 

"Investment platforms play a vital function in helping people manage their long term savings and the regulator is absolutely right to question whether consumers are receiving the best possible service and value for money.”  

 "The FCA has confirmed that measures to improve transferability of assets between platforms will be extended to comparable services which is a positive development, particularly in relation to exit fees. A restriction in platform exit fees would not have a material impact on our business and as a net receiver of assets, we would expect to benefit from greater transferability of assets in the market.

The FCA has welcomed the progress industry is making to improve the switching process, most recently through their STAR initiative to improve the efficiency of the transfer process across the retail investment and pensions sectors. The FCA is encouraging firms not already involved in this initiative to consider taking part as a way of improving the switching process and achieving better outcomes for consumers.

The FCA will review progress made by the industry to improve the switching process later this year, and again in 2020, if needed. The FCA will consider taking forward further regulatory action if the efficiency of the switching process does not improve.

Since publishing its interim report, the FCA has seen firms and the industry acting to improve the provision of information about costs and charges, helping consumers shop around. As a result, the FCA is not proposing new rules but will review the progress of industry in 2020/21, and consider if further action is necessary.

The FCA consultation on new rules for switching and feedback on the questions regarding exit fees runs until 14 June 2019. The FCA may then consult on final rules for exit fees.

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