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Ensuring that customers in vulnerable circumstances are treated not only fairly, but with empathy and sensitivity to their circumstances is a growing priority for the Financial Conduct Authority and other regulators. Vulnerable clients are likely to need additional assistance at some stage in order to avoid detriment (financial or psychological) when attempting to arrange insurance. The purpose of this policy is to ensure that the way in which we conduct our business does not have a negative impact on vulnerable customers.
A vulnerable consumer is defined as someone who has personal circumstances that place them at a higher risk of detriment, particularly if a company does not act with the appropriate level of care.
Progressive Parts is committed to ensuring that all its staff are capable of identifying vulnerable consumers, and that they are able to handle a situation involving a vulnerable customer with the required levels of care, attention and respect. A consumer may find it difficult to make an informed decision about their available options for a variety of reasons. The risk factors that contribute to consumer vulnerability in financial services include:
Living with a disability, illness or diagnosis does not in itself make someone vulnerable. In the context of financial services, it is the person’s situation and barriers to accessing such services that may make them vulnerable. Equally a person may be vulnerable without any disability, illness or diagnosis, for example if they are recently bereaved or frail.
For Progressive Parts’s staff to correctly address the needs of a vulnerable consumer, it is important to be able to identify them.
Risk factors that can help to identify a vulnerable consumer include illness, disability, illiteracy, bereavement and other impairments as indicated above. the client may have indicated a vulnerability in correspondence or one or more of the following indicators may become apparent during a telephone conversation or meeting.
key indicators that often highlight a risk factor include:
Just because somebody is vulnerable does not automatically mean that they are unsuitable for the products and services we supply. As soon we think we may be engaging with a vulnerable consumer we should take care to adhere to the requirements set out in this policy.
When dealing with vulnerable consumers staff must remain aware of the following guidelines:
When a vulnerable customer has been identified a relevant note should be added to their record ensure awareness extends to all staff within the company who deal with the client. It is important that we maintain a consistent level of service, and that a vulnerable consumer receives adequate care irrespective of which staff they liaise with. Any such notes should describe the reasons for the assessment of the customer as vulnerable and be respectful.
Mental capacity relates to the ability of the individual to understand and to retain and evaluate relevant information in order to be able to make a decision based on that information.
In the event that a member of staff believes that a vulnerable consumer is unable to make a decision for themselves regarding their purchase/contract, they should attempt to identify a carer or next of kin who is authorised to act on their behalf with respect to their financial affairs. in many cases, a parent or spouse will represent the interests of the vulnerable consumer. All staff members who deal directly with clients, regardless of department or position, must familiarise themselves with this policy and ensure they understand it completely.
It is acknowledged that there are limits to what we can reasonably do to form a view as to whether or not a customer has, or may have, some form of capacity limitation. However, it is good practice, in product literature provided to customers prior to providing a relevant product or service, to invite customers to disclose (on a voluntary basis) whether there are any issues relating to their health or general well-being which may be relevant to the consideration of any product or decision by the firm. Any such invitation should make clear that the information provided will be used solely to facilitate an informed service being provided.
If a customer provides information which indicates that he does, or may, have some form of mental capacity limitation that might impact on his ability to make an informed decision, this should not lead to him automatically being denied access to the product or service being sought. It should act as a trigger for us to consider what reasonable steps might be taken in order to amend our usual processes to ensure that the customer is treated fairly and a positive outcome results for the customer.
The design and distribution of new products & services at Progressive Parts will take into account the requirements of vulnerable customers and this will include collecting relevant management information to monitor the company’s performances in treating vulnerable customers in accordance with the requirements set out in this policy.
For more information please review the FCA’s guidance here.