A NEW directory aimed at guiding people through the annuity minefield ran into immediate controversy on its publication this week.

The Annuity Directory from the Pensions Income Choice Association was criticised for a bias against financial advice and towards "guidance", where people choose an annuity with- out advice, using a website.

The association is chaired by Tom McPhail, pensions expert at Hargreaves Lansdown, the UK's biggest and most powerful site offering financial product "guidance".

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Dr Ros Altmann, pensions campaigner and former government adviser, said: "I had high hopes that this would be a major step forward to ensure customers are clear about what they need to achieve the best outcomes from their hard-earned pension savings.

"Sadly, this directory is more likely to mislead people into buying without advice, from non-advised services which claim that their 'guidance' is at least as good for the customer as 'advice'.

"Taking independent advice is almost always likely to be better than trying to make this complex decision on one's own."

The directory suggests advice is "time-consuming" and "more expensive" while guidance "puts you in the driving seat".

Mr McPhail said that Pica would be "toning down the virtues of guidance and removing some of the criticism of advice". He said the move followed "helpful feedback" from advisers.