Abbey National in row with mortgage advice sites

The Abbey National does not approve of financial Internet sites and asks who is regulating them?

The Abbey National has demanded that a number of financial Web sites remove it from their comparative mortgage ratings, claiming the advice is "unqualified".

The sites say they provide visitors with accurate information and are not failing customers. They argue that the bank has resorted to bully tactics because it is frustrated about the way it is portrayed in comparisons of mortgage deals.

The sites, moneysupermarket.com, NetMortgage.co.uk and fredfinds.com, provide comparative listings of mortgage deals offered by different banks and building societies in the UK and come up with recommended deals. The Abbey National says that making such recommendations amounts to providing financial advice and claims the sites may not be qualified to do this. It says that financial Web sites should be forced to adhere to the same guidelines that control traditional financial institutions.

Banks, building societies and financial advisors in the UK are obliged to follow a set of regulations known as the Mortgage Code when providing mortgage advice. It sets out minimum standards for mortgage lenders and intermediaries.

The disagreement may raise questions over standards maintained by online financial companies. High street banks have long complained about the influence new Internet ventures have over their customers.

Chief executive of moneysupermarket.com Simon Nixon told ZDNet: "It has been our strategy to remain independent and list every mortgage provider in the UK. Abbey National wants to be removed from moneysupermarket.com's Web site. Why? If they are worried about unfavourable comparisons on mortgage rates then the ball is fairly and squarely in their court."

An Abbey National spokesman dismissed Nixon's comments as: "Utter rubbish. It's just sour grapes on their part. We would say that there is a real question mark over the services that they're offering to customers." The spokesman said the Abbey National does just one percent of its mortgage business through third party Web sites.

Moneysupermarket.com is taking legal advice.

The Abbey National remained listed on at least one of these sites Tuesday night.

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