Consumer Panel pushes for MAS remit to be widened

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The Financial Services Consumer Panel (FSCP) has called for the Money Advice Service (MAS) to widen its remit from generic advice to helping people "understand products" and "choosing a pension or a mortgage".

In its response to the government's consultation on the MAS launched in May, the FSCP said it wants the MAS to "go beyond debt advice and basic money management".

It wants it to get involved in helping consumers with issues such as converting their pension savings to retirement income, funding long term care, and investing and saving for the future.

"Impartial help in these areas is not easily available from other sources," the panel said, before acknowledging that the guidance guarantee "should help with retirement issues".

The panel suggested that the MAS should go beyond providing guidance on its website and move towards talking through complex issues on the telephone or face to face.

The FSCP wrote its response before details on the delivery of the guidance guarantee were finalised, and its proposals could vary depending on the outcome, a spokesperson said.

They added that the MAS should perhaps play a bigger role in signposting consumers to fully advised services carried out by regulated advisers on its directory.

The panel also called on the regulator to shift some of its consumer-facing work onto the MAS in an effort to stop duplication of services.

Referring to the Financial Conduct Authority's (FCA) fraud protection pages and consumer helpline offering, the panel suggested: "We believe it would be better for MAS to deliver this kind of information and the FCA to signpost consumers to it."

Moving even further into the regulatory sphere, FSCP told the government to "look at the feasibility a single consumer helpline", which would cover the Financial Ombudsman Service and Financial Services Compensation Scheme as well.

"Consumers do not understand the finer points of the regulatory architecture, and why should they? A single point of contact could be convenient for consumers and get them to the right place quickly," the panel reasoned.

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