Financial watchdog heavily criticises pension annuity deals

Image caption The annuities industry is accused of confusing customers

Some insurance companies and pension providers have been heavily criticised in a report on the sale of annuities to people when they retire.

The Financial Services Consumer Panel - which works alongside the financial watchdog, the FCA - says firms confuse customers and charge high commissions.

Retirees buy an annuity to provide an income from pension savings; some 400,000 are sold every year.

Sales are expected to double over the next few years.

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Media captionTom McPhail: Annuity regulators "asleep at the wheel"

The report from the Financial Services Consumer Panel (FSCP) said annuity deals have become more complicated and many retirees are entering into them without taking advice.

Its research found some high quality service, but the report warned "the many examples of poor practice mean that the general outcome for consumers can be akin to a lottery."

The FSCP recommends a study of the market to examine possible "exploitative" pricing of annuities sold by insurance companies to customers who have been saving with them for a pension.

It also wants to look at hidden charges that make it difficult for consumers to make an informed decision.

"We urgently need to reform this market, particularly for those with smaller pension pots, who usually can't get independent advice," said Sue Lewis, chair of the consumer panel.

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