Industry response

Equality Act 2010: Age Supplement to the Services, Public Functions & Associations Statutory Code of Practice - Consultation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission

Response by the Building Societies Association

Introduction

1.    The Building Societies Association (BSA) represents mutual lenders and deposit takers in the UK including all 45 UK building societies.  Building societies have total assets of nearly £330 billion and, together with their subsidiaries, hold residential mortgages of over £230 billion, 18% of the total outstanding in the UK.  They hold over £230 billion of retail deposits, accounting for 19% of all such deposits in the UK.  Building societies account for about 28% of all cash ISA balances.  They employ approximately 39,000 full and part-time staff and operate through approximately 1,600 branches.

2.    We welcome the opportunity to comment on the EHRC consultation.  We concentrate primarily on chapter 11 because it relates to financial services.

Chapter 11 – Age specific exception: financial services

3.    This is a useful draft chapter and the examples are helpful.  For instance, the example on page 46 underlines the point that ‘silver saver’ accounts are within the relevant exception, but highlights the fact that victimisation is not.

4.    The example on page 47, relating to the exception in relation to assessment of risk, concerns an unsecured loan and the one on the following page is about insurance. While there is nothing wrong with this, we suggest that (in the light of the FCA’s revised mortgage rules that came into effect on 26 April and the considerable current public focus on mortgages) that a further example, in that context, might be useful. A possible form of wording is as follows –

Example: A 60 year old married couple apply for a mortgage over a fifteen year term on their new home.  Because one plans to retire in two year’s time and the other in five years, the mortgage lender asks for information to check that they will be able to afford the mortgage payments with the income they expect to have after retirement.  The couple complain that this is age discrimination, but in fact the lender is conducting an assessment of future affordability in accordance with regulatory requirements.

We note, and recognise, the purpose and limitations of the examples overall, referred to in paragraph 1.6.

Other Points

5.    The explanatory material throughout the draft document is generally very helpful and clearly written for a broad audience.  For example, the chapters on direct discrimination; indirect discrimination; and harassment and victimisation usefully explain and illustrate the differences between these concepts.

The Building Societies Association
2 May 2014