There’s a lack of transparency around adviser platform pricing, which could be undermining competition in this crucial market, according to our latest UK Adviser Platforms: Pricing report.

Pricing structures can be complex and confusing and are often poorly communicated. What’s more, the growing prevalence of discounted/bespoke pricing makes it even harder for advisers and their customers to compare costs between platforms, which could present a Consumer Duty problem for platform operators.

Some platforms do not provide the pricing information on their websites and calls to customer services may not be sufficient to elicit the facts. Even when it is possible to uncover the facts, there may be discrepancies between the website, pricing documents and terms and conditions.

Crucial definitions vary between platforms and they often omit examples that could help consumer understanding. Even something as simple as whether an account refers to each client or each wrapper is often unclear.

Of course, financial advisers are no strangers to wading through administrative sludge, but the same can’t be said for the average consumer (who’s ultimately paying said platform fees).

Platforms are right now in the middle of reviewing their compliance with Consumer Duty ahead of 31 July 2023 and their implementation plans have just been completed. Interpretations of how to meet Consumer Duty outcomes have come under hot debate. Some will be planning to change their practices, while others will believe they’re fine as they are. But as things unfold, you can be sure that the FCA will be keeping watch.

Platforum has recently published UK Adviser Platforms: Pricing and UK Adviser Platforms: Autumn Update, our annual assessment of online investing services from the end-investor’s perspective. Using live accounts, we benchmark the largest of these – including direct platforms and non-platform services – against industry best practices. Please get in touch for more information.