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Regulator acts on packaged accounts
The FSA has called on banks offering packaged accounts to give customers greater transparency
New rules to stop banks and building societies mis-selling packaged accounts to customers have been announced by the City regulator.
Concerns have been raised that people are throwing money "down the drain" when they pay a monthly fee for a current account with add-ons such as insurance, business class lounge access at airports, or overdraft facilities which turn out to be useless to them.
The Financial Services Authority (FSA) is clamping down on a "lack of transparency" surrounding such accounts, which are held by a fifth of adults in the UK.
It wants to ensure customers are given the same level of protection they would have had if they had bought the products separately.
A "key risk" the FSA found is that consumers may believe they are covered by each policy included in their account and only discover they are ineligible when it is too late.
Firms buy insurance policies wholesale and offer them at discounted rates in the overall package, making it hard for customers to compare costs with standalone insurance products or other bank accounts.
The FSA's new rules, which come into place from March 31 next year, will force financial institutions to check whether a customer is eligible to claim under each policy, share this information with the customer and alert them to policies where they are not covered. People must also receive annual eligibility statements to make sure the policy still suits their needs.
The FSA warned it will consider further intervention if it finds evidence of further problems. It plans to continue monitoring the market, with six-monthly surveys to firms to collect information about product ranges, sales and complaints.
A spokeswoman for the FSA said it did not expect to see widespread mis-selling claims over packaged accounts, as there have been over the PPI scandal, and said the rules were being introduced to deal with a "growing market". There are currently 44 packaged accounts on the market, with an average fee of £14 per month, according to financial information website Moneyfacts.
Sheila Nicoll, FSA director of policy, said: "These products are often referred to as upgraded accounts but if you end up paying for an element you can't claim on, it's money down the drain. We are closely monitoring the promotion of packaged bank accounts and the new rules will make sure customers know what they're buying and that they can rely on the product or have the limitations explained before buying."
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