The FCA has published a speech delivered by Sheldon Mills (Executive Director, Consumers and Competition) reminding firms that they have less than three months to go until the Consumer Duty comes into force on 31 July.

The speech puts the Duty in context, highlighting its intended benefits for firms and the UK, and stating that if applied correctly the Duty should help firms retain and attract customers and will enhance the competitiveness of the UK financial services sector.

The point is also made that the Duty should provide the FCA with a lens through which it can assess its own rules so that, in future, it does not duplicate regulations that are already implicit in the Duty, potentially leading to a more simplified rule book.

The speech sets out some key question firms should already be asking themselves as part of their preparations:

  • Does your purpose and culture align with your obligations under the Duty and support the delivery of good outcomes for customers?
  • Is the Duty being considered in all relevant discussions such as strategy, remuneration and risk?
  • Have you made sure your remuneration and incentive structures drive good outcomes for customers?
  • Are you prioritising delivering good outcomes for customers in a changing external environment?

Fair value is picked out as a focus area, with price and value cited as the outcome that firms find the hardest. Firms are advised to use the time remaining in the run-up to 31 July to ensure that their fees are fair and transparent, and that particular groups of consumers are not disproportionately disadvantaged. Firms are also reminded that fair value is about more than price and that value should include consideration of the quality and benefits of the product or service.

In terms of what to expect from the FCA, the speech explains that the FCA's supervisory and enforcement approach will be proportionate to the harm or risk of harm to consumers. The speech warns that the FCA will prioritise the most serious breaches and act swiftly and assertively where it finds evidence of harm or risk of harm to consumers. The speech also expresses a willingness on the FCA's part to be pragmatic and open in working with firms on the way they use data and analytics to demonstrate compliance.

Although the FCA's research indicates that many firms are on course for meeting the imminent implementation deadline, the speech closes by warning firms which are not up to speed to avoid delaying any further.