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Equity Release Council updates industry standards

Equity Release

The Equity Release Council, the representative trade body for the UK equity release sector, has today launched its updated industry standards.

The organisation said the changes represent the largest evolution in standards since they were established in 2012. The Council’s standards set a best practice benchmark by providing a higher level of consumer protection than any other form of property-based loan.

Equity release refers to a range of products that let an individual access the equity tied up in their home if they are over the age of 55. According to the Council, the update in industry standards introduces an approach based on principles and consumer outcomes, which reflects the latest thinking in financial services regulation and complements the existing rules, safeguards and protections.

An extensive consultation took place earlier this year among the Council’s membership, including providers, advisors, solicitors and surveyors. It also drew on external input from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), HM Treasury and the Money and Pensions Service (MaPS).

The updates will come into effect from 1 January 2020.

“The standards are fundamental to the Council’s work to lead a customer-focused market, and today’s launch is an important milestone in nearly thirty years of protecting consumers’ interests,” said Chris Pond, chair of the Equity Release Council’s Standards Board.

“The aim of the review was to ensure that the standards reflect emerging trends in regulation and are future proofed for a world where retirements needs are constantly changing.

“The renewed focus on principles and outcomes alongside existing rules and guidance will help to ensure that equity release products and services continue to meet customer needs. The standards which Council members commit to, above and beyond their regulatory duties, provide the ultimate reassurance to consumers that equity release products are safe and reliable.”

The Equity Release Council has over 300 member firms and 1,000 individuals registered, which will abide by the new standards being introduced. Since 1991, nearly 500,000 homeowners have accessed almost £29 billion of housing wealth via Council members to support their finances.