Pacific Islands Regional Initiative (PIRI) conducts consumer protection regulatory training in Tonga
The Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI) Pacific Islands Regional Initiative (PIRI) conducted a three-day regulatory capacity building training on consumer protection 18-20 November in Nuku’alofa, Tonga, to improve technical knowledge and understanding on important issues required to implement enabling market conduct policies and regulations.
Identified as a priority topic of PIRI, members undertook a regulatory survey to assess and better understand the level and scope of development in the area of consumer protection in each institution. The results provided a baseline for members to gauge the level of development in each jurisdiction.
The capacity building training is one of the deliverables agreed upon by PIRI members to be undertaken to meet its overarching goals of ensuring that member institutions implement a regulatory framework that promotes consumer protection. Resource experts from member institutions within the AFI network were present to share their experiences and knowledge on the policy area. The training covered the latest developments on consumer protection, addressing this area in regard to digital financial services, regulation, supervision and enforcement, institutional frameworks on market conduct and consumer protection, roles of the financial industry in forecasting fair and responsible business conduct, alternative dispute resolution, and financial capability.
An outcome of the training was the development of timelines for each member country in implementing a proposed consumer protection framework.
PIRI's Experts Group for Financial Inclusion Policy (EGFIP) on consumer protection also shared a draft consumer protection model regulation, which members discussed and benchmarked against the model legal framework for financial consumer protection that was presented by ACCION on behalf of the Microfinance CEO Working Group.
Professor Ross Buckley of the University of New South Wales (Australia) discussed the importance of ensuring consumer protection regulation cover innovative business models, particularly in the area of digital financial services.
Representing Banco Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), Ms. Prudence Kasala, who is also the Co-Chair of the AFI Consumer Empowerment and Market Conduct (CEMC) Working Group, was on hand to provide training in regulatory frameworks for consumer empowerment and market conduct, as well as an overview of different approaches used by authorities in light of regulation, supervision and enforcement of market conduct. Ms. Kasala stated: “The consumer protection regulatory training for the Pacific Islands comes at an opportune time as financial regulators, including financial service providers, recognize the value of incorporating consumer protection as integral to financial supervision and even the business of financial intermediation.”
Ms. Choong Mei Kuen, from Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM), added: “Providing a clear mandate for a body to be responsible for financial consumer protection and enhancing the consumer protection framework to incorporate effective complaints handling, advisory and redress mechanisms are some of the priority areas in further advancing the financial inclusion agenda in the Pacific Islands.”
Ms. Mei Kuen provided an overview of the international landscape of business conduct and consumer protection, and provided insights into avenues for customer assistance, as well as redress and alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.
In his closing remarks, Sione Kioa, Governor at the National Reserve Bank of Tonga (NRBT), said that the training provided a unique opportunity to meet, share, and witness an incredible richness of knowledge and information exchange among ourselves with regards to promotion of financial inclusion and protection of financial consumers. He added, the level of engagement was impressive and the quality of discussions helped to build capacities in various jurisdictions in terms of consumer protection and financial inclusion.
“I hope that we would go away from this training with appropriate tools that would each help us develop effective regulatory and legal framework as well as strategies and best practices to protect the interests of financial consumers so as to empower them to contribute to the economic development of the country and support financial stability,” said Governor Kioa.