The Financial Conduct Authority will have a duty to ensure consumers have access to financial services under a Government amendment to the Financial Services bill.
At the report stage of the bill in the House of Lords yesterday, the Government bowed to pressure from Labour to take account of the availability of services.
At committee stage, an amendment to create an FCA duty over access to services in deprived areas was backed by Liberal Democrats, Labour, Conservatives and the Bishop of Durham Justin Welby.
Labour peer Baroness Dianne Hayter (pictured), who leads the party on consumer issues in the bill, said: “The Government has moved on access and its amendment helps the ease with which people can access financial products. It is really important, we do not want to blow our own trumpet but it is quite a big tick we have on that.”
The Financial Services Consumer Panel also lobbied for the requirement, saying it was necessary to balance the FCA’s new competition powers.
FSCP chair Adam Phillips says: “We were concerned that without this concession people could suffer real harm.
“You only have to look at the withdrawal of banking services in rural areas or geographic restrictions on insurance to see the importance of the new FCA ensuring widespread access to financial services.”
Jacksons Financial Services managing director Pete Matthew says: “I agree with it in principle as long as we get good value. The chances are we are going to pay for it when you look at the Money Advice Service, paid for explicitly with our levies, it hasn’t been good.”