Council launches new guidance on post-completion communications to enhance customer support

The Equity Release Council has launched new guidance to enable customers to make the most of their equity release products as their needs evolve and to help their loved ones understand the process better. The 17-page post completion communications guide has been developed by a Council working group comprising providers, funders, advisers and other industry professionals.  Aimed at advisers and providers, it supports firms’ requirements under the consumer understanding and support outcomes of the Financial Conduct Authority’s Consumer Duty. The guidance describes the various triggers for providers to communicate directly with customers. It outlines regulatory requirements before recommending additional steps to further enhance understanding and support good consumer outcomes. Examples of recommended communications include:

  • A product overview to be sent to the surviving applicant after the other passes away to remind them about the features of the product. This is especially helpful if the surviving applicant was reliant on their partner for help with financial matters.
  • A leaflet for family members that explains what equity release is and why a loved one might have taken it out which could be issued when the plan ends. This can help if customers did not follow the Council’s guidance to consult with their families before taking out equity release, which is not always possible.

Kelly Melville-Kelly, head of risk, policy and compliance at the Equity Release Council, said: “Equity release has traditionally been a long-term commitment, and while that remains true, the freedom and flexibilities of today’s products create more options for customers to consider over time. “We have worked hard with members to look at how high standards of service can be continued long after the funds have first been released, considering changing circumstances such as the death of a spouse, enquiries about further advances or adding a new power of attorney. “Equity release receives relatively few complaints¹ and only a handful are upheld. However, a significant portion of those complaints are from family members, which is why we’ve included recommendations on how to support them too. “It’s important that communications evolve along with the products to help older people and their families make the most of the products to live independent lives for longer and pass on living inheritances.” The process of taking out a new equity release product is one of the most detailed in retail financial services, involving both regulated financial advice and legal advice governed by statutory regulation and industry standards. The wave of product innovation seen in recent years has created more flexibilities and options for people to take advantage of during their time as a policy holder. These include options to repay early with no early repayment charge after a fixed period of time or significant life event; make voluntary penalty-free partial repayments when they can afford to; or switch to another equity release product. ENDS

To download a copy of the guidance click here.