Many independent financial advisers (IFAs) are not being up-front with potential customers over what they could expect to be charged for advice, according to research from Which?
The consumer group analysed the websites of 500 UK IFA firms and found more than two-thirds (349 firms) did not publish their fees and charges online, giving customers no advance indication of what they could be charged.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) currently states that it is "best practice" for IFAs to display fees online, but Which? wants the regulator to look at whether it should be mandatory for IFAs to display fees on their websites.
Which? said that nearly a quarter (115) of sites it looked at purported to show their fees, but most did not give enough detail to give a real indication of what a consumer would pay.
The consumer group's executive director, Richard Lloyd, said: "Paying for financial advice could be one of the best investments people can make, especially if they are taking advantage of the new pension freedoms, but a lack of transparency on fees could put them off at the first hurdle.
"Good IFAs have nothing to fear by publishing fees online and we believe that if some firms can do it, then the others have no excuses. We need IFAs to be much more open about charges or the regulator should step in and change the rules."
Here are some tips from Which? for anyone looking to employ an IFA:
:: Shop around and gather quotes from a number of local firms to get an indication of how much you can expect to pay.
:: Meet each adviser before making any firm decisions and check they are qualified to the correct level.
:: Do not feel pressured into agreeing anything unless you are happy with the adviser.
:: Under the terms of 2013's Retail Distribution Review, payment for advice must be agreed between you and the IFA before any advice is given.
:: Make sure you understand any payment method you agree to, and are clear about ongoing charges.
:: IFAs are regulated by the FCA, so if you are unhappy with the service you have received, complain to the IFA in the first instance. If your issue is not resolved after eight weeks, you can contact the Financial Ombudsman Service for an independent investigation of your case.