The FSA Principles apply to all authorised firms dealing with retail customers. Of particular relevance to the disputes we see are:
Principle 1 (integrity)
"A firm must conduct its business with integrity."
Principle 6 (customers' interests)
"A firm must pay due regard to the interests of its customers and treat them fairly."
Principle 7 (communications with clients)
"A firm must pay due regard to the information needs of its clients, and communicate information to them in a way which is clear, fair and not misleading."
Principle 8 (conflicts of interest)
"A firm must manage conflicts of interest fairly, both between itself and its customers and between a customer and another client."
Principle 9 (customers: relationships of trust)
"A firm must take reasonable care to ensure the suitability of its advice and discretionary decisions for any customer who is entitled to rely upon its judgment."
In addition, it is relevant to take into account the more detailed rules set out in ICOB (the FSA's insurance conduct-of-business rules) – especially the provisions of ICOB 4.3 (suitability), ICOB 4.4 (statements of demands and needs), and ICOB 5.3 (provision of information to retail customers).
In particular, ICOB 4.3.1R requires that:
An insurance intermediary must take reasonable steps to ensure that, if in the course of insurance mediation activities it makes any personal recommendation to a customer to buy or sell a non-investment insurance contract, the personal recommendation is suitable for the customer's demands and needs at the time the personal recommendation is made.
For sales from 6 January 2008 onwards, the FSA's new conduct-of-business rules (ICOBS) apply.
The General Insurance Standards Council (GISC) promised in its Code that its members would:
- act fairly and reasonably when we deal with you [the customer];
- make sure that all our general insurance services satisfy the requirements of this Private Customer Code;
- make sure all the information we give you is clear, fair and not misleading;
- avoid conflicts of interest or, if we cannot avoid this, explain the position fully to you;
- give you enough information and help so you can make an informed decision before you make a final commitment to buy your insurance policy.
The GISC Code provisions included:
We will give you enough information and help so you can make an informed decision before you make a final commitment to buy your insurance policy.
We will make sure, as far as possible, that the products and services we offer you will match your requirements ...
We will explain all the main features of the products and services that we offer, including ...
We will give you full details of the costs of your insurance.
If we give you any advice or recommendations, we will:
The Association of British Insurers (ABI) codes (which pre-dated GISC) also set out relevant requirements. For example, the ABI General Insurance Business Code of Practice for all Intermediaries (1989) (the ABI Code) said that it:
... shall be an overriding obligation of an intermediary at all times to conduct business with utmost good faith and integrity.
The ABI Code stated as one of its general sales principles that the intermediary:
... shall ensure as far as possible that the policy proposed is suitable to the needs of the prospective policyholder.
The ABI Code also included requirements about "explanation of the contract". And it said the intermediary should:
Explain all the essential provisions of the cover afforded by the policy or policies he is recommending so as to ensure as far as is possible that the prospective policyholder understands what he is buying; [and] draw attention to any restrictions and exclusions applying to the policy.
The ombudsman has noted that there is much in common between the present statutory regulatory-regime and the non-statutory provisions that preceded it (and, indeed, the position at law). The non-statutory provisions no longer apply as specific requirements on those selling insurance. But the ombudsman considers they still represent a helpful guide to good industry practice.