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Last Updated: Saturday, 26 May 2007, 14:01 GMT 15:01 UK
Attack on money 'best buy' tables
By Chris A'Court
BBC Radio 4's Money Box

Mike Lazenby, Kent Reliance Building Society chief executive
Mr Lazenby thinks the best buy tables are being manipulated
Consumers are being misled by "best buy" tables for savings rates, a building society chief has claimed.

Kent Reliance's Mike Lazenby says firms are effectively being made to buy their way into the top spots.

He also said tables should ignore accounts with introductory offers as they give poorer long-term value.

Table provider Moneyfacts admitted firms must pay 11,000 before being considered but said it was committed to producing clear information.

Sour grapes?

Mike Lazenby claims banks and building societies manipulate the table compilers and cited the case of a recent Moneyfacts best buy table in which three out of the top six ISA accounts were running introductory bonuses.

His own society's ISA account, which has been among the most consistent over several years, was pushed down the ranking as a result.

But he denied that his objections amounted to a case of "sour grapes".

We actually believe that best buy tables should be regulated
Mike Lazenby, Kent Reliance

He told BBC Radio 4's Money Box: "It's not about whether we are the best or not.

"It is about the whether the table is giving good, fair and accurate information.

"All advertising of financial services in the UK is regulated, best buy tables are not, and yet best buy tables are far more influential in affecting somebody's decision over what product they should buy.

"We actually believe that best buy tables should be regulated.'

Commercial enterprise

Andrew Hagger of Moneyfacts said it would accept such regulation if required.

He confirmed that any firms wanting to list information with the Moneyfacts database are asked to buy its data verification system but said that did not amount to paying to appear in best buy tables.

We are a business, we can't do this as a charity
Andrew Haggar, Moneyfacts

He pointed out that Moneyfacts was a commercial enterprise saying: "We have 30 full time staff researching and putting everything together for the media and the financial press, and you know, we are a business, we can't do this as a charity, and firms appearing in the tables get free national publicity."

He added that Moneyfacts implements its own controls and does not list any account paying an introductory bonus of more than 1% or a bonus that is shorter than six months.

Another large provider of best buy tables, moneysupermarket.com, said it would also accept regulation of the tables and that it makes its profits from a fee received from financial firms each time someone "clicks through" to buy from its site.

BBC Radio 4's Money Box was broadcast on Saturday, 26 May 2007 at 1204 BST.

The programme was repeated on Sunday, 27 May 2007 at 2102 BST.



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