Requests for individual guidance may be made in writing or orally. If oral queries raise complex or significant issues, the FSA will normally expect the details of the request to be confirmed in writing. Simple requests for guidance may often be dealt with orally, although it is open to a person to seek a written confirmation from the FSA of oral guidance given by the FSA.
A firm and its professional advisers should address requests for individual guidance to the firm's usual supervisory contact at the FSA, with the exception of requests for guidance on the Code of Market Conduct (MAR 1) which should be addressed to the specialist team within the Markets and Exchanges Division. A firm may wish to discuss a request for guidance with the relevant contact before making a written request.
The FSA will aim to respond quickly and fully to reasonable requests. The FSA will give high priority to enquiries about areas of genuine uncertainty or about difficulties in relating established requirements to innovative practices or products. What constitutes a 'reasonable request' is a matter for the FSA. It will depend on the nature of the request and on the resources of the firm or other person making it. The FSA will expect the person to have taken reasonable steps to research and analyse a topic before approaching the FSA for individual guidance. The FSA should not be viewed as a first port of call for guidance, except where it is only the FSA that can give the guidance, for example in confirming non-standard reports that it wishes to receive from a firm.
The FSA will always need sufficient information and time before it can properly evaluate the situation and respond to a request. If a request is time-critical, the person or its professional adviser should make this clear. The more notice a person can give the FSA, the more likely it is that the FSA will be able to meet the person's timetable. However, the time taken to respond will necessarily depend upon the complexity and novelty of the issues involved. In making a request, a person should identify the rule, general guidance, or other matter on which individual guidance is sought, and provide a description of the circumstances relating to the request. The FSA may request further information if it considers that it does not have sufficient information.