If the payment protection insurance (PPI) market has not at last woken up to itself then the alarm bells are now ringing so loud that even Mr Van Winkle would be waking from his slumber.

In the last fortnight there have been a number of significant moments, which will hopefully act as precursors to some very serious changes in how business is done in this sector.

Both the FSA and the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) were highly critical of the payment protection insurance (PPI) market and deservedly so.

In making announcements on the same day, one wonders if there was more than coincidence at work and certainly a tighter collaboration must be hoped for if the gaps and loopholes in regulation are to be truly closed off to offending parties.

What had been a concern was the amount of criticism that had rained down on the market over the last year, while little positive action seemed to be taking place to curb the worst practices that were being so clearly highlighted.

However in the past two months two firms have been fined by the FSA for mis-selling PPI products, and the £455,000 fine given to Loans.co.uk sends out a very clear message of the seriousness in which its offences are held and the kind of sums other firms may be looking at for similar offences.

This action is very welcome and will certainly make other firms look more closely at their own practices and procedures.

However it must be hoped that the FSA does not simply make an easy target of brokers. Clearly where they are at fault then action must and should be taken. However providers in this market are also guilty of selling poor value products to a captive audience and the regulator must be firm in policing its treating customers fairly principles and begin to take some action against the worst offenders.

Clearly the OFT's decision to refer the PPI market to the Competition Commission will have far reaching implications and deliver future changes to the market. Again this is a clear signal of intent and the move is a very big step in the right direction.

However the FSA should not wait for these changes but begin to bring providers into line in the same way it has shown capable of doing so for distributors.

Protection insurance is a much needed and important financial product. The tighter it can be regulated and the more competition that can be brought to the market, the better the products will be for the end consumer in terms of price, value and design.
Sara-Ann Burgess, Director, Britishinsurance.com