An investigation into the quality of free equity release advice available through some intermediaries - including IFAs - has uncovered examples of what it deemed poor practice.
A mystery-shopping investigation by Which?, which consisted of 22 visits to firms, found only a single case of 'excellent' advice. Four advisers failed all its tests, although it would not identify them.
The advisers questioned by Which? comprised tied and multi-tied intermediaries as well as some independent advisers and one charity.
All the services were provided free of charge.
The benchmarks set by Which? included the provision of information on status and fees, adequate fact finding on income, debt and savings, and advice given on the types of scheme on offer.
A total of 12 advisers offered an 'average' service, despite failing on a number of key benchmarks, while four were described as 'almost perfect'.
The poor practices uncovered by Which? included instances of equity release advisers not disclosing their status and fees; insufficient fact-finding and inadequate discussion of types of schemes on offer including home reversions and lifetime mortgages.
Which? also found that only nine of the 22 advisers discussed exit fees and just ten discussed alternatives such as downsizing or taking in a lodger.
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