Wednesday, August 26, 2009

New consumer watchdog

Source: Straits Times Aug 25, 2009
New consumer watchdog
By Francis Chan, Finance Correspondent

A NEW consumer watchdog was launched on Tuesday to keep closer tabs on financial institutions and their sales processes.

Formed by former Income chief executive Tan Kin Lian, the Financial Services Consumers Association (FiSCA) is an independent and not-for-profit organisation that sets out to strengthen financial consumer protection.

The move to set up FiSCA came after thousands of retail investors here lost their savings on complex structured products.

FiSCA will focus on education and research. It will hold seminars and consumer forums for members to enhance their understanding of financial services and products.

"Ultimately, our focus is to educate people on how to make choices," said Mr Tan, who will head FiSCA as president.

"But even before we learn to assess the more complex products, we must make sure we have the basic understanding first. If not, we may be easily taken for a ride."

Mr Tan said for an annual membership fee of $36, members can also access its services, which will also include an online platform.

A survey has found that investors here want a truly independent watchdog that is not funded by any financial institution, said Mr Michael Zhan, FiSCA committee member.

To maintain its impartiality, FiSCA will not seek funding from financial institutions, said Mr Tan.

FiSCA hopes to raise additional funding from government agencis and other philanthropic organisations that want to promote consumer financial education.

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