Powers of Attorney – new guidance aimed at financial services and utility companies
The UK Regulators Network (UKRN) has published a joint UKRN-OPG Guide to Power of Attorney, entitled: ‘Supporting customers who do not make their own decisions’ and aimed at financial services and utility companies. The guide aims to help staff in financial services and utility companies act more consistently when they see powers of attorney and deputy court orders.
This guide has been written by the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) in partnership with the UK Regulators Network (UKRN), Ofcom, Ofwat, Ofgem and the FCA and in conjunction with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). It’s intended to help policy makers in financial services and utility companies provide straightforward and consistent information for staff, which will make the process easier for customers.
The way that companies approach their dealings with customers who have PoAs or deputy court orders is defined by the Mental Capacity Act 2005. Company employees should not be trying to assess a customer's capacity themselves - they should only be checking that relevant legal documents are genuine, read them to see who is allowed to make decisions for them and under what circumstances, and amend their records accordingly so that attorneys do not have to go through the same procedures on multiple occasions.
Companies often insist on seeing an original document, such as a lasting power of attorney (LPA) or enduring power of attorney (EPA), when this isn't really necessary, or will ask to see it on more than one occasion. Photocopies, scanned images and certified or office copies can be acceptable alternatives to original documents. Whether a company insists on seeing the original document will be influenced by the level of risk involved in letting an attorney manage someone's account - for example, with utility companies, the risk will usually be lower than when an attorney is dealing with a bank account containing substantial savings. Companies should publish clear policies for accepting legal documents, so attorneys and deputies know exactly what is expected of them.
The guide also reminds companies that a property and financial affairs LPA can be used whether or not the donor has lost capacity, unless the donor has stated otherwise or it becomes ineligible in some other way.
The guide is available at the link below.