Signposts for consumer credit firms making an application to the Financial Conduct Authority for authorisation
The first port of call for many consumer credit firms will be the FCA's consumer credit authorisation webpage.
The FCA has published a variety of information and guidance to assist firms, such as its guide to being regulated for consumer credit firms and its leaflet on common misunderstandings about consumer credit permissions.
If you want to speak to the FCA about your application, its contact details are also on its website.
Many firms going through the application process will have interim permission. This temporarily entitles such firms to continue consumer credit activities previously carried out under their OFT licences. Chapter 12 of the Consumer Credit Sourcebook (CONC 12) in the FCA Handbook sets out the details about which rules do and do not apply to firms with only interim permission. Anyone may search the recently updated Financial Services Register for details of fully authorised firms and firms with only interim permission.
The transition between the OFT and the FCA regulating consumer credit has been organised around 17 specified application periods. The final application period will close on 31 March 2016.
How long should it take?
Complete applications should be processed by the FCA within six months of receipt. If your application is incomplete, the FCA has 12 months to make its decision. If the FCA needs to request further information from you, this is likely to delay the process.
Do you meet the FCA's standards?
When a full permission application is made, the relevant standards that applicant firms (and their prospective approved persons) need to meet are detailed in legislation, and the FCA Handbook provides guidance on these matters, for example:
FCA authorisations statistics
The FCA also regularly publishes new data on consumer credit authorisations. The latest Data Bulletin (October 2015) can be downloaded here. It records that as at 30 June 2015 there were 41,937 consumer credit firms (excluding appointed representatives) of which 16,096 had applied and been authorised, and 25,073 had an interim permission. (The remaining 768 were 'grandfathered' authorised not-for-profit firms that were previously covered by a group licence.)
Firms are entitled to withdraw their applications by giving written notice to the FCA at any point before their application is determined. As at 30 June 2015, 1,060 firms had withdrawn their applications. As for determinations, 23 firms were refused, and 94% of cases (including 5,095 new-to-market firms) were authorised.
This note is for general information only and does not, and is not intended to, amount to legal advice and is not intended to be relied upon as such. If you have any questions relating to your particular circumstances, you should seek independent legal advice.