Equity Release Council issues new guide on clear communication

New handbook is available to the council's membership of more than 750 firms and 1,900 registered individuals

Equity Release Council issues new guide on clear communication

The Equity Release Council (ERC) has introduced a new guide aimed at enhancing communication between its members and consumers within the later life lending sector.

The initiative, developed in collaboration with ratings agency Fairer Finance, seeks to improve customer understanding of financial products and services, thereby aiding them in making informed decisions.

The National Literacy Trust highlights a concerning statistic: one in six British adults possess a reading age of 11 or below, insufficient for achieving a grade C in English GCSE.

This underscores the necessity for clear communication, a principle echoed by the Financial Conduct Authority’s mandate for firms to ensure their communications are “clear, fair, and not misleading” with the introduction of Consumer Duty further emphasising the need for firms to demonstrate the comprehensibility of their communications to customers.

In the adjudication of consumer disputes, the Financial Ombudsman Service takes into account the readability of documents to determine the fairness and reasonableness of firms’ actions. The Consumer Rights Act 2015 also stresses the use of “plain and intelligible language.”

The handbook, now accessible to over 750 firms and 1,900 individuals within the ERC’s membership, serves financial advisers, solicitors, and surveyors, involved in both direct customer interactions and support roles.

Read more: Equity Release Council announces standards shake-up

“This guide builds on a cast iron commitment, that was enshrined in the very first equity release industry standards more than 30 years ago, to provide customers with fair, simple and complete presentations of information,” said Jim Boyd (pictured), chief executive of the Equity Release Council.

“With more features and flexibilities available on the market than ever before, it is vital that customers understand their options, so they are empowered to make informed financial decisions. This will deliver a lasting benefit to both customers and their families.

“Working with Fairer Finance to produce this guide will support our members to bring modern equity release products to life for customers in ways that are accessible, understandable and easy to digest.”

James Daley, founder and managing director of Fairer Finance, lauded the ERC’s effort to improve member communication with customers.

Equity release is a complex product, and it’s crucial that customers can understand exactly what they’re signing up to,” Daley said. “Our guide provides practical advice which will make it easier for lenders and brokers to write, design and structure their documents in a way that is accessible for as many customers as possible.”

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