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Advisers still misleading public over qualifications

Advisers still misleading public over qualifications

Nearly two thirds of advisers on online directory Unbiased may be misleading the public with false claims about their credentials, consumer watchdog Which has claimed.

An investigation by the consumer rights organisation into 43 advice firms on Unbiased found 27 of them - or 63 per cent - claimed to employ certified financial planners but did not have a single adviser with the qualification from the Chartered Institute of Securities and Investment.

Which also found seven out of 24 firms falsely claimed to be accredited by the Society of Later Life Advisers and 14 out of 72 claimed to have advisers with chartered financial planner status despite not employing anyone with this credential.

Which did similar research last year and found nearly identical issues with the way advice firms were recording their qualifications, which it warned misled the public.

Harry Rose, editor of Which Money, said: "Our findings raise serious questions for the advice sector. If potential customers can’t trust the information in the public domain about prospective advisers, how can they reliably shop around for the right one?

"Adviser directories, accrediting bodies and advisers themselves must ensure listings are correct, so consumers can confidently compare different advisers."

Which used the search filters provided on each site to find the first 10 listings (or however many were available if fewer than 10) for each qualification in five randomly-generated postcodes.

Once it compiled a list of firms and advisers from these searches, it contacted the providers of the qualifications and had them compare the listing on Unbiased to their official records to find any discrepancies.

Which also carried out similar checks on VouchedFor and the Money Advice Service Retirement Adviser directory, which contained less inaccurate information but still "significant numbers" of misleading records.

On VouchedFor, it found two of the 21 advisers claiming to be chartered financial planners were not actually chartered and neither of the two advisers claiming to be accredited by the Society of Later Life Academy were listed with Solla.

On the Money Advice Service directory, 16 per cent of those claiming they were certified, 9 per cent of those claiming they were chartered and 5 per cent of those who claimed they were accredited by Solla did not appear to actually hold such accreditation at all but Which said this was a "marked improvement" on last year.

VouchedFor said it has though recently introduced a 'Checks’ tab on each adviser’s profile, which shows the date VouchedFor most recently checked the nature of the services the adviser offers.

A spokesman for Vouchedfor also said it plans to require advisers to upload scans of their certificates.

Karen Barrett, chief executive and founder of Unbiased, said: “Since the discovery of some inaccurate qualifications listed on the site, we have checked a high proportion of the advisers listed with us, and are actively working with the qualification bodies to verify even more.