Payment Protection Insurance – Barclays Challenge Government ruling

Barclays scupper plans for PPI reform

Plans to restrict the sale of payment protection insurance (PPI) at the point when loans or mortgage are granted have been set back following a successful appeal by Barclays bank.
The Competition Appeal Tribunal has now been forced to instruct the Competition Commission to back down from its plan to ban PPI sales such as mortgage protection insurance, at this point of the transaction. The Commission released a statement commenting that it would study the judgement closely before deciding what course of action it would take next. In a carefully worded statement however it was made clear that it was only this one small part of their strategy, to make choices clearer for consumers, that was being affected.

A spokesman for the commission commented “The appeal was upheld on one ground which relates to our assessment of the remedy prohibiting the sale of PPI at the point of sale of credit,” before adding that it was because The Commission had been asked to “reconsider the loss of convenience for consumers of not being able to buy PPI at the same time as taking out credit.”

Intended to allow consumers a cushion for repayment of their credit cards, loans or mortgages should they fall ill or lose their job, PPI has been a bone of contention between insurance companies and banks and finance companies for some considerable time. Early this year the Commission outlined a range of limitations on the sale of PPI with some commentators claiming the lack of competition in the field has led to “persistently high prices”. The Commission had stated that from October 2010, lenders would be unable to initiate a sale of a policy for up to 7 days after granting a loan to combat the “point of sale” advantage that the lenders had gained.

However after challenging the Commission’s plan on four separate grounds – three of which related directly to the point of sale restriction, Barclays have successfully convinced a tribunal that putting this plan into place could put customers who actually wanted to purchase cover at a disadvantage.

Referring to the plans laid out by the commission as a “remedy without consent” the Tribunal concluded that the Commission had failed to take into account the “loss of convenience which would flow from the imposition of the point of sale prohibition”. The Tribunal also added that it was this “constituted failure to take into account a relevant consideration” that meant that the Commission would need to revise its plans once more.

However the overhaul of how PPI sales are regulated is still continuing at a rapid pace as complaints from consumer organisations and those who believe they have been mis-sold PPI grow exponentially. This year alone we have already seen the FSA tell banks and other financial institutions to compensate those who may have been mis-sold policies, re-open the 185,000 old complaints that have been dismissed, and stop selling the much criticised single premium PPI, whilst companies offering help and advice to claim back fees spent on mis-sold PPI has practically become an industry in itself.

Referred to as a “protection racket” in some corners of the industry due to abnormally high cost policies being sold to people who can’t actually make a valid claim under the terms of their agreements PPI providers added excess profits of £1.4bn to their coffers in the heady days of 2006 when the Competition Commission first began making enquiries into the sector.

As Martin Lewis of financial advice website moneysaingexpert.com succinctly commented “Bank-based PPI is a near con – it’s hideously over-expensive, billions of pounds of it have been mis-sold, and the sooner it’s cleaned up and cleared out the better.”

At a time when public faith in the entire banking sector is at an all time low how the public will react to this further delay in cleaning up what is a tainted section of both the banking and insurance worlds’ remains to be seen. However, the general consensus amongst financial commentators is again echoed in Mr Lewis’ comments “It’s a shame Barclays has succeeded in using its lawyers to delay the implementation of such an important ruling”

Whether they have stemmed the tide for good, or as Mr Lewis suggests have simply delayed the inevitable is uncertain, but for the time being the Bank’s are refusing to let this go without a fight.

Kris Oldland

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WARNING DO NOT BUY PPI FROM A BANK – EVER!

Insuranceblogger urges consumers to shop around and buy mortgage protection insurance from independent suppliers after they have researched the market. The point of removing PPI sales from mortgage and loan sales was to stop the consumer from being pressurised into buying overpriced products to secure the loan.

Once again a bank, admittedly not one overly involved in the toxic debt fiasco , but one intricately involved in the collapse of the banking system by it’s failure to step in and rescue Lehman Bros. (until they had collapsed and they cherry picked the best bits!), is allowed to dictate to Parliament and interfere with the due process of consumer law!
Insuranceblogger recommends checking out alternative protection products such as Lifestyle Income Protection Insurance which has wider covers and is not tied to any particular lump sum debt.

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