Reports about firms and individuals trying to work without authorisation reached a record high in 2019/2020, the Financial Conduct Authority has said.
In its annual report, published yesterday, the regulator said it received 20,326 reports of unauthorised firms last year – an increase of 11 per cent on 2018/19.
That represented the highest number it had received in a single year, the watchdog added.
As a result, the regulator said the number of alerts it had issued during 2019/20 had leapt by 37 per cent to 715. The FCA also noted it had “opened criminal and civil investigations”, and referred matters to other agencies where they were best placed to take action.
“If serious misconduct is not addressed it causes loss of trust in our markets as well as financial losses to consumers and firms,” the watchdog said in the report.
“Our aim is to detect serious misconduct early so that we can intervene and prevent harm from continuing.”
Speaking of enforcement actions in general, the FCA said it concluded 185 cases in the year to March 31 2020, with another 646 ongoing. But only 15 investigations led to financial penalities.
The average time taken to resolve regulatory and civil cases rose from 17.5 months to 23.9 months over the period, while the average cost of cases rose from £103,400 to £229,000.
The FCA noted that its recent Financial Lives survey had suggested significant levels of potential fraudulent activity had emerged over the past year.
“One in ten UK adults have experienced an unsolicited approach in the past 12 months such as calls, emails or text messages claiming to offer pension advice which may or may not have been with fraudulent intent.”