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UK regulator identifies remedies for 'loyalty penalty' in financial products

The U.K. Competition and Markets Authority identified certain remedies and recommendations to tackle the problem of long-standing customers being charged more for some financial products than new customers.

Charitable organization Citizens Advice had filed a so-called super-complaint with the CMA after its study found that long-standing customers across five sectors — mobile phones, broadband, home insurance, mortgages and savings — were losing £4.1 billion a year to the "loyalty penalty."

The regulator's investigation found damaging practices by firms, including year-over-year stealth price rises; costly exit fees; time-consuming and difficult processes to cancel contracts or switch to new providers; and requiring customers to auto-renew or not giving sufficient warning about their contract being rolled over.

It made a number of recommendations to regulators and government, including using enforcement and regulatory powers to clamp down on harmful business practices, clearly setting principles that businesses should follow, firms being publicly held to account for charging more to existing customers and publishing the size of loyalty penalty, and targeted price caps to help protect particularly vulnerable people.

The CMA recommended that the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority look closely at the pricing practices of the insurance sector, where there is evidence of firms continually raising prices.