The pensions revolution due next month is "uncharted territory" but the consumer must take ultimate responsibility, the Financial Conduct Authority's chief executive has said.

Martin Wheatley told the National Association of Pension Funds' annual investment conference in Edinburgh that while there were important roles for the government and the regulator in protecting retirees from making bad decisions on their pension, there was also "crucially, consumer responsibility".

Mr Wheatley said pension schemes had a fiduciary responsibility to manage funds effectively, but all retirees could not be prevented all of the time from making 'sub-optimal' decisions. "Some savers, come 55, will invariably head to Las Vegas, buy fast cars or otherwise calculate how to run down their pension pots in days and months rather than years....Saga seems to have suggested that cruise bookings have risen by 8per cent ahead of April."

But he said this risk was "part of the process that flows from the benefit of freedom". Some responsibility "has to bump across from industry to consumers". There could be a percentage of people who refused to listen to any guidance or risk warnings, Mr Wheatley said. "Who ultimately is to blame if 10 to 15 years from now those people regret whatever choice they've made, or complain they weren't properly guided?"

He said there was "understandably" some industry anxiety around the extent of its liability for sound guidance.

But he said the 'guidance guarantee' and retirement risk warnings were part of "an infrastructure of protections and support that follow savers" from starting work to retirement. Delivering the Pension Wise service, he added, was actually the responsibility of HM Treasury not the FCA.

He said there were heightened risks of fraud and pension liberation scams, which had to be managed adding: "But whether you believe in freedom of choice, public paternalism or in some combination of the two, the presence of risk is, frankly, unavoidable."

A full house at Edinburgh's international conference centre heard Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, explain how his new AIM-listed mobile phone carrier The People's Operator (TPO) would recruit customers through the power of the internet.

Mr Wales, 48, a former Chicago derivatives trader who created the online encyclopedia 15 years ago, said word of mouth, identification with good causes, and a 'long tail' of users were the keys to building a brand online with no marketing budget.

"People are attracted to ideas, people want to get involved in things that are meaningful to them," he said. "Brands can get much stronger if they recognise that and give people ideas they feel will change the world for the better."

He said TPO promised customers that 10per cent of their bill could go to any good cause of their choice, down to small causes that might only attract 100 supporters but could be shared online. It would charge competitive rates without trying to be the cheapest.

Mr Wales said Wikipedia was confident of its prospects the lawsuit brought this week against the US government for unconstitutional surveillance of its contributors who, he said, were a core community of 3000 to 5000 "typically 26-year old male techies".

On how the internet effect could help long-term savings, he said: "If a pension fund can foster a community around savings and planning and stock choices and things like that, there is going to be an impact, though probably not quite yet."

Ruston Smith, president of the NAPF, opened the conference with a reminder that in 30 years' time there will be 150,000 people living to 100 - or 10 times today's level. But he said pension funds continued to suffer the "corrosive effect" of rising liabilities, thanks to permanently depressed gilt yields. "We are pressing the chancellor to urgently address the need for more long-dated gilts and index-linked gilts in his budget speech next week."

Mr Smith said the industry had to respond with smarter management, noting that the NAPF was aware of a spread of fees between 0.45per cent and 0.9 per cent in almost identical active equity funds, and a spread between 0.32per cent and 2per cent for real estate funds. "Investor should be looking for the best returns not the lowest fees but members want to know they are getting the value for which they are paying."