How to spot dud products
Although it's not always possible to know whether the financial product you're buying is a dud, there are a number of warning signs that you should heed.
"Everyone's different, so a product that's perfect for one person might be a complete waste of money for another," says Brian Brown, head of research at Defaqto. "Whatever you're considering, ask yourself what would happen if you didn't have it. This can tell you how important it is."
It's also worth looking at how the product's being sold. Independent financial advisers are only allowed to recommend products that are suitable for your needs. Unfortunately, this isn't the case with banks and other financial companies, so question anything that's sold to you by these organisations.
For example, Peter Staddon, head of technical services at the British Insurance Brokers' Association, points to payment protection insurance (PPI). "What caused the problems with PPI was the banks' inherent greed. They were selling it to anyone, regardless of whether it was suitable for them or not," he explains.
Unwanted financial products can also creep into the mix when you're buying something else. Examples include an extended warranty or store card alongside a washing machine or building insurance with your mortgage.
These add-ons might be suitable, but even if they are, you'll most likely be able to get them cheaper elsewhere.
Payment protection insurance is designed to cover you should you fall ill, have an accident or lose your job and can’t make repayments on loans or credit cards. However, research by consumer watchdogs found the cover to be overpriced, filled with exclusions (policies exclude self-employment, contract employees and pre-existing medical conditions) and were often mis-sold because the exclusions were never fully explained. In May 2011, the High Court ruled banks had knowingly mis-sold PPI and ordered them to compensate around two million consumers.