Saturday, January 14, 2012

THAILAND: New Financial Consumer Protection Center

Financial products have become increasingly complex and difficult for consumers to understand. While most work has been done in developed countries, emerging markets are also taking steps to help financial consumers. On January 13, 2012, the Bank of Thailand announced the creation of a special center – the Financial Consumer Protection Center (FCC) – to help financial consumers in Thailand.

The FCC will operate as a “one stop” shop for consumer complaints about the services of financial institutions under the Bank of Thailand’s supervision as well as the securities operations of the Bank of Thailand itself. In addition, the FCC has a financial education role with three objectives: (1) equip consumers with financial knowledge in order to raise awareness and understanding of their rights and responsibilities, (2) avoid becoming victims of financial fraud, and (3) enable consumers to make informed decisions about financial products and services.

The Bank notes that about 2,600 consumer complaints are filed annually, with up to 91 percent of the cases solved according to the Bank’s statistics. The most common complaints concern scams related to call centers and debt restructuring.

The FCC has set itself ambitious customer service targets, with complaints to be addressed within 15 days (versus 30 days in the past) although complex complaints may take more time, according to the FCC. Consumers will have access to three ways of contacting the FCC: (1) a telephone hotline, (2) email submissions and (3) postal services.

For financial education, the FCC plans to join forces with the Ministry of Finance, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Stock Exchange of Thailand, the Thai Bankers' Association as well as the media.

Safe and Fair Finance Blog strongly welcomes this action by the Bank of Thailand and recommends that the complaint data be carefully analyzed – and the analysis published. Such data can provide valuable insight into the sources of the troubles for financial consumers. The issues might include not only fraudulent practices but also cases where consumers could not obtain enough information to make informed decisions — or where the information was too complicated to be easily understood. Where consumer complaint data is published in the media, the data brings the additional benefit of helping industry associations and consumer organizations focus their efforts related to consumer protection.
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