Financial services – access all areas?

The Government has taken an important step forward in ensuring that financial services work for older people. It proposed an amendment to the Financial Services Act which, for the first time, gives the regulator a mandate not just to protect consumers, but also to ask whether consumers can access the products and services they need.

Age UK has been calling for the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to be given this ‘access mandate’.  We’ve been convinced of the need for the regulator to look at access because of what we hear from older people – we see many problems caused not just by dangerous products that consumers should be protected from but also because of the lack of products and services that are really accessible to older people.

200x160_moneyBarriers vary:  it could be direct age discrimination – being told you’re ‘too old’ for a mortgage, or credit card, or insurance.  Or it could be indirect, having to jump through so many hoops to find and obtain the right kind of insurance that you give up.   Often the design of services mean they just don’t work for large groups of older people – for example relying on text messages for updates and removing paper statements will make it harder for many older people to manage their money well, the reduction of the branch network and poorly designed telephone and online banking systems will make it almost impossible for others to manage independently at all.
Continue reading “Financial services – access all areas?”

Cheques: what is all the fuss about?

It’s been called  ‘even worse than a colossal error of judgement’, it might be the death of a system that’s worked for over 300 years,  and is certainly a PR disaster, but why is there so much fuss over the Payments Council’s decision to set a target end date of 2018 for cheque clearing?

Surely with everything else going on – rising inflation, cuts in social care, NHS reform, pensions reform etc – there are more important things to worry about?  After almost a year of research I think it’s because cheques have become a symbol of frustration that we can’t access our own money in a way which works for us, but increasingly have to pay for services we don’t really want, or give up our security in order to get at our cash.

Research published by Age UK today, ‘The Way We Pay: Payment services and financial inclusion’ asks (i) what payment services we need to have access to in order to be financially included; (ii) what can be learnt from other countries and industries – is technology the answer; and (iii) what is the role of Government, do we need a universal service obligation?

We found that already nearly 1 in 5 people aged 65+ do not withdraw their day-to-day spending money themselves, but use someone else to do so, just 52% of people of all ages did not write down their PIN or tell it to someone else, and 11% of people aged 75+ who have a Chip & PIN card do not find it very easy to use.  Even with cheques, many people don’t have payment systems and services which allow them to lead independent lives.

Payment systems are a utility, like water or electricity –  you don’t appreciate them until you don’t have them and when they’re gone you’re in trouble.  But with other utilities you have a range of protections, in payments we’re relying on a voluntary member-based body, the Payments Council. Continue reading “Cheques: what is all the fuss about?”