The financial watchdog is to consider whether homebuyers currently have enough information to choose mortgages and if they're in a position to understand whether products are good value.

As part of its review into the residential mortgage market, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has set out plans to scrutinise the relationship between estate agents, price comparison sites, lenders and brokers in relation to process of buying a home.

Mortgage tools, comparison tables and advice will come under the microscope to see if they're fairly representing costs and helping consumers to make the most effective decisions.

Commercial agreements between lenders, brokers and other players will also be explored to see if they lead to "conflicts of interest" or result in behaviour that's to the "detriment of consumers".

Currently some mortgage lenders pay inducement to brokers who offer their products, while some brokers make payments to estate agents, developers and price comparison sites in return for highlighting their services. It's these types of payments that are likely to come under the FCA's radar.

The regulator says it will also consider whether technology could be used to solve problems in the market, and it will look at the possibility of delivering more product information digitally.

This latest intervention follows a raft of changes brought in by the FCA in April 2014, aimed at ensuring lenders performed more stringent affordability tests on would-be homeowners.

MoneySavingExpert.com has campaigned widely on the issue of "mortgage prisoners" - existing homeowners who've been locked out of remortgaging at cheaper rates because of the 2014 affordability rules.

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'A seismic shift'

FCA executive director of strategy and competition Christopher Woolard said: "As a mortgage is likely to be the biggest financial commitment most people make in their lifetime, we're keen to ensure that competition in the mortgage sector is healthy and working to the benefit of consumers."

Paul Smee, director-general of the Council of Mortgage Lenders, said: "The FCA's rule changes in 2014 created a seismic shift in how mortgages are sold. It is entirely right that the regulator reviews their effect, as well as how commercial relationships in the market have developed in the light of the new environment.

"Any opportunity to review how the market can best work for the benefit of consumers is an opportunity worth taking, and we will be participating constructively."

What happens next?

An interim report is planned for summer 2017, with a full final report following in early 2018.

Additional reporting by the Press Association.

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