Less than third make the grade

As part of its study, Which? visited 57 advisers to judge standards within the financial sector. It revealed that 35 per cent of advisers failed to provide a Keyfacts of Costs document, with 30 per cent breaking FSA rulings by failing to provide Keyfacts of Services documentation.

According to the Which? report, 16 per cent of tied advisers passed the benchmarks, while almost half of all tied advisers led researchers, who were acting as consumers, to believe they offered more choice than they did.

Which? Also reported that 37 per cent of those questioned failed to conduct a fact find, while 76 per cent of advisers questioned about protection advice failed to advise on the risks associated with income protection if their income fell.

81 per cent of those questioned also failed to explain the Keyfacts of Costs, with a number of advisers making statements to deter researchers from reading the documentation.

Neil Fowler, editor of Which? Magazine was surprised by the findings. He said: “Our investigation leads us to believe that the industry has failed consumers in the provision of this crucial service, and is still failing them.”

Responding to the findings, Karen Barrett, marketing director at IFA Promotions, said: “As with any industry you get varying degrees of advice. Advisers should get recommendations from existing clients, and those that are incrementally qualified in certain areas should highlight this.”

Following the investigation, Which? has taken its concerns and findings to the Financial Services Authority (FSA).