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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 July, 2004, 23:05 GMT 00:05 UK
Savings industry attacked by MPs
John McFall MP, chairman of the Treasury Select Committee
McFall: Industry has "limped from crisis to crisis"
The savings industry has a "catalogue of problems" which have damaged savers' confidence, an influential committee of MPs has said.

Slating the industry, the Treasury Select Committee said it had "failed to adapt to the modern world".

Consumers were owed a better "duty of care" and greater transparency over charges were needed, the MPs said.

They also propose that pay throughout the industry should be linked to returns delivered to savers.

The report "Restoring Confidence in Long-term Savings" said about half of all with-profits policyholders, with savings worth about 160 billion, were now in closed funds that offered limited long-term growth.

A clear, standardised Summary Box for all savings products, which outlines the risks of the product
A simple, standardised risk indicator for savings products that can be included in the Summary Box
Savers should be told how much they are paying for sales and advice and the relative costs of paying via a fee or commission
A limit on "trail commissions" received by IFAs for years after they have sold a product

At the same time, people with endowment mortgages collectively faced shortfalls of 40bn, policyholders at Equitable Life were facing a 3bn deficit and savers who had invested money in so-called precipice bonds had lost around 2.2bn.

Select Committee chairman John McFall MP criticised insurers for being slow to react to changes in the investment climate, namely steady growth, low inflation and low interest rates and large commission payments.

"This committee has uncovered a catalogue of problems that have beset the long-term savings industry in recent years, damaging savers' confidence," he said.

Many savers, he said, had lost faith in the industry because they saw top executives receiving massive pay increases while the value of their investments had collapsed.

"The result, as Ron Sandler (who conducted the review into the industry) told the committee, is that people now trust their local supermarket more than many of our largest life insurers," he said.

The committee has published a list of proposals, but now wants the industry to come up with measures to restore investors' confidence.

The BBC's Hugh Pym
"Any long-term solution may come too late for some savers"

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