So said Lord McKenzie, Labour Peer and former DWP Minister, about claims management companies. Behaviours and regulation of this sector were debated on 5 July 2017 when the Financial Guidance and Claims Bill had its second reading in the Lords.
The Bill will bolster statutory regulation of the sector, transferring it from the Ministry of Justice to the Financial Conduct Authority. Lord McKenzie’s remarks closely paraphrase the Explanatory Notes to the Bill, which state that:
However, there is evidence of malpractice in the sector and a number of complaints have been levelled at claims management companies. Common complaints included poor value for money, misrepresentation of the service offered to consumers, and reliance on nuisance tactics, such as unsolicited calls and texts. As a result, consumers have become distrustful of claims management companies, with 76% of the public having reported that they are not confident that the companies tell the truth to their customers.
Against that level of concern it is hardly surprising that the Bill has broad cross-party support and that it passed its second reading unopposed, It now goes to Committee stage on 19 July. This is non-political legislation and it’s moving pretty quickly after being announced in the Queen’s Speech on 21 June. [It seems very likely that the text of the Bill was ready to go before the election and that it was just waiting for a parliamentary slot.]
One thing the Bill does not do is to ban cold calling and texting for claims. The sponsoring Minister, Baroness Buscombe, said that the Government believes “that strengthening the regulation of claims management services should reduce the number of nuisance calls made by CMCs, as they will have to comply with the FCA’s tougher regulatory rules on marketing and advertising.” All very well of course, but belief that a particular outcome should happen following legislation is quite different from taking specific legislative steps to ensure it does. Given that banning cold calling and spam texting for claims is one of the few things about which all key stakeholders agree, it seems fairly surprising that Government is not minded – yet – to tackle it in this Bill. That said, Lord McKenzie made it very clear that he would revisit this as the Bill progresses, undertaking to “probe … why the Government are not taking steps in the Bill to ban cold calling and cold texting.”
Might the Bill bring an end to spam texts about all those accidents in the last three years that were not your fault? Who knows for now, but watch the Bill – and your phone screen.
Written by Alistair Kinley, director of policy and government affairs at BLM