Sunday, June 16, 2024

New Bill banks on financial fairness

The Financial Markets (Conduct of Institutions) Amendment Bill passed its third reading in Parliament tonight and will see the establishment of a new financial conduct scheme that ensures financial institutions put customers before profits, says Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, David Clark.

“This work comes at an important time as the Government supports Kiwis through the current cost of living crisis, and will help to ensure they’re not unknowingly paying for services they do not need, or taking on debt they cannot afford,” the Minister said.

“People place a lot of trust in their banks and insurers which play an integral part in their lives, and this new regime will help to tilt the balance back towards the consumer by protecting them from bad behaviour that could leave them vulnerable.”

It follows reviews by the Reserve Bank of New Zealand and Financial Markets Authority which found banks and insurers in New Zealand lack focus on good customer outcomes, and have insufficient systems and controls to identify, manage and remedy conduct issues.

“For example, the reviews found a major imbalance in power between financial institutions and consumers, products which had been designed without good customer outcomes in mind, sales incentives based on volume or value targets and generally weak systems for managing risk,” said Mr Clark.

“There was also a lack of accountability when it came to ensuring good conduct is maintained by financial institutions.

“Further, New Zealand has been an outlier internationally in not having conduct regulation of banking and insurance services. This important regime will fill that gap.”

The Minister said the new regime will ensure that New Zealanders can be confident that the financial products and services they are buying are appropriate to their circumstances.

“We strengthened the bill along the way to ensure that it still provided competition and choice within the industry,” he said.

“We are committed to supporting Kiwis through both short and long term cost of living pressures, which has also included protecting people from loan sharks saddling borrowers with debt they cannot afford.”

He said the FMA will work with financial institutions to ensure they are prepared for the new regime, with licensing applications expected to open in mid-2023.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) will also develop supporting regulations. The regime is expected to come fully into force in early 2025.

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