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Saturday, 17 November 2012

CPP FINED BUT BANKS IN THE FRAME



When I appear on BBC Breakfast I write a cue and notes of what I am going to say. I never read it but it is a useful aide memoire for me. And where there are allegations it ensures I get them right and am fair and balanced.

This morning my spot on BBC Breakfast was stood down for some breaking news. These things happen. But here are the script and notes I wrote about CPP and its mis-sold insurance products.

CUE: A firm which sold millions of people insurance against ID theft and loss of their bank cards has been fined more than £10 million by the financial regulator and told to pay compensation to customers.

CUE: The Financial Services Authority revealed that CPP had told customers untruths and misled them while selling the insurance, which was unlikely to pay out in any normal circumstances. Paul Lewis is in our London studio

Q: What did CPP sell and why was it mis-sold?

PAUL: Two products were mis-sold. What CPP called card protection plans which were supposed to pay out if you had money stolen from your account – but of course if you do the banks pay out in almost all circumstances so the insurance was generally useless. The FSA revealed CPP charged around £35 a year for it but the product cost it just 60p. The other was ID theft insurance. It was more expensive at £84 a year but it cost CPP just £16. Both products were mis-sold by sales staff who, to put it bluntly, lied. They used false statistics, made misleading claims, exaggerated the value of the insurance – which as I said would almost never pay out – and they gave advice which in the later years they were banned from doing. Their contracts also contained unfair terms.

Q: How did it manage to sell so much?

PAUL: Altogether it sold more than £840m of new and renewed business to 4.4 million people between 2005 and 2011. CPP sold about 10% of its products directly. But the bulk of them – about 4 million new policies – were sold as a result of a partnership with four High Street banks – Barclays, RBS, Santander, and HSBC. In some cases the bank put a phone number on newly issued cards with the instruction to call it to ‘activate’ the card. In fact you got straight through to a CPP sales person. So some banks at the least colluded in this mis-selling to 4 million people.

Q: And have the banks also been censured?

PAUL: No. Not yet. I understand the FSA is in discussions with the banks and other CPP partners. CPP has been fined £10.5m for direct sales and is expected to pay out £14.5m compensation. But ten times as many policies were sold through the banks – so will the fines and compensation be ten times as big? We won’t know that for some time. But it is more bad news for the reputation of those banks.

Q: What compensation will customers get?

PAUL: Anyone mis-sold these products – and the FSA report makes it clear that was widespread, so it may be most or almost all of those with them – will get their premiums refunded plus interest. CPP has been banned from selling these products – in fact its whole website is down at the moment – but those who have them are allowed to renew. Anyone who is offered a renewal should think very carefully about whether it is good value for money. And should prepare to make a claim for compensation when the scheme is announced in the New Year.

Q: What does the company say?

PAUL: In a long statement it apologised, said this was all in the past, it would pay the penalties, and move on to a better future.

You can call CPP in office hours free from a landline on 0808 156 0199