Middle-class Brits are the “new vulnerable”, says Tyrie

Lord Andrew Tarry, the Tory peer tasked with cleaning up the banking industry after the financial crash, claimed regulatory failures had left time-poor British middle class “the new vulnerable”.

Tyrie accused regulators of failing across the board, creating a “crisis in capitalism” where consumers felt they were being ripped off and not properly protected.

The former Competition and Markets Authority chairman — who also chaired a Parliamentary Committee on Banking Standards after the crash — told the Financial Times: “We have widespread public dissatisfaction with capitalism.

“People feel alienated, they feel like they’re living in an economy that’s blown up and it’s run for others, not for them. These attitudes run deep into the middle classes, who are the new vulnerable.”

Tyrie claimed that consumers’ use of digital platforms has left them open to extract top-up fees from companies, which take advantage of customers who don’t have time to shop.

“People are time poor,” he said, adding that traditionally vulnerable consumers – such as the elderly or the less educated – are now being joined by the middle classes.

Tyrie said regulators had widely failed, accusing them of not protecting consumers from renewal penalties, being unprepared for the energy price shock or stopping sewage being dumped into rivers.

“Almost none of them have done enough,” he added. “Regulatory failure has contributed to the crisis in capitalism, both in the UK and elsewhere.”

He argued that some watchdogs had been “captured” by the companies they were supposed to regulate and that the legal basis on which they were operating was flawed.

Last month, Tyrie, who has been grilling bank chiefs as chairman of the House of Commons finance committee since the 2008 crash, gave a speech to parliament outlining a range of possible solutions.

He said the institutional basis on which regulators were set up needed to be strengthened to put consumer interests as the primary legal one, with a “campaign duty” to make decisions as soon as possible.

Tyree, who has made recommendations to the government on possible regulatory reforms, said the regulators’ goals should be simplified, with strict targets and regular reviews.

The Tory peer also advocated improving the governance of regulators to “improve internal challenge”, with a strengthened role for non-executive directors.

Tyrie has proposed an “A team in the Cabinet Office” to oversee the watchdogs, with powers to send strike teams “to regulators to carry out investigations”.

Noted for his caustic investigative style, Tyrie abruptly left the CMA in 2020 after colleagues worried about his reform agenda threatened a vote of no confidence, according to people briefed on the matter.

Tyrie resigned citing frustrations with the “inherent limits” of his role. At the time he indicated that he was moving to lobby more freely for the consumer-oriented reforms he had called for at the CMA.

He said: “I was unable to get the board to realize that a strategic change was needed in the way the CMA operates. I realized I was up against a brick wall. I’d better go.”

The CMA declined to comment, but its new management team said it wanted people to be sure they were getting “excellent choice and fair deals” and to create an environment where fairly traded businesses could thrive.

The business department said it disagreed with Tyrie’s comments. “The Government is committed to ensuring consumers get a better deal and protecting their hard-earned money,” he added.

The department highlighted the reforms, including a new technology regulator called the Digital Markets Unit, and an overhaul of the UK’s electricity market aimed at reducing energy costs for consumers.

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