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DID YOU know that we're celebrating World Consumer Rights Day this week? The theme is "Our Money, Our Rights", to highlight consumer issues relating to financial services.
So, make sure you brush up on your knowledge of your rights when investing your hard-earned cash so that you are aware of the opportunities and the risks involved.
From time to time we all get to know about investors losing their money as a result of investing in dodgy financial schemes that guaranteed unrealistically high returns.
Financial advisers who told them they were accredited to sell such "products" on behalf of legitimate financial services providers have misled some consumers.
"When something seems to be too good to be true, it very often is just that: too good to be true. It is prudent to stick to the products of legitimate financial services providers that have a proven track record and investment expertise," says Ralph Mupita, managing director of Retail Affluent at Old Mutual.
"We strongly advise consumers to work with financial advisers, who are authorised to sit with you and give you personalised advice on products for which they are licensed in terms of the Financial Advisory and Intermediary Service legislation (FAIS)," Mupita says.
Financial advisers undergo training and are required to attain prescribed qualifications.
Once they have completed their training, they are qualified to advise on specific products. It is a legal requirement of FAIS that advisers must be able to produce a document setting out the products they have been authorised and accredited to sell.
If the financial adviser is not accredited to advise on a product that you require, then he or she should refer you to an adviser who is accredited on the particular solution.
FAIS also requires that advisers disclose to their customers whether they are acting for an authorised financial service provider.
It would be prudent to only consider investing your money in regulated products with financial services providers that are registered with the Financial Services Board (FSB).
"If advisers fail to provide you with proof of the list of products on which they are authorised and accredited to give advice, then you should be on your guard about investing in any scheme or product they put before you," says Mupita.
Mupita suggests that if an adviser cannot prove they are authorised and accredited to sell a product, it is strongly advisable not to sign any paperwork, but to contact the service provider employing the adviser to report the incident.
When sitting down with your financial adviser to work out your personal financial plan, make sure that your adviser follows these steps, as required by FAIS legislation. The adviser should:
lGather information regarding your financial situation, your goals and your experience with financial products;
lAnalyse this information;
lIdentify financial products that will address your risk profile and financial needs;
lDisclose the benefits, terms, conditions, fees, guarantees of the product(s) under consideration. As part of these product related disclosures, the adviser must detail the commission-fees payable on the product and some financial products also provide that you can negotiate the amount of commission/ fees to be paid to the adviser.
lMake recommendations as to which product(s) would be most suited to your financial needs
lWhere a financial product is to replace your existing product, make various disclosures with regard to both products, enabling you to make an informed decision regarding the replacement.
These comparative disclosures include information regarding benefits, conditions, limitations, guarantees, fees, charges, penalties, tax implications and the like. These provisions aim to protect you against potential churning. Churning happens when an adviser indiscriminately replaces financial products to maximise commission earned that does not put the customer's interests first.
lKeep a written record of the advice provided. A financial services provider is obliged to provide a record of advice where their advice to you resulted in the purchase of a financial product. Keep this record in a safe place.