The Central Bank of Ireland (CBI) has announced new rules in relation to financial intermediaries disclosing their commission arrangements to consumers. The rules will be included in the Consumer Protection Code 2012 and will come into effect on 31 March 2020. It is important for all relevant stakeholders to be aware of the upcoming rules and what they mean for financial institutions, financial intermediaries and consumers alike.

Who do the new rules apply to?

The CBI’s package of new rules will be included in the Consumer Protection Code 2012. The new rules will introduce requirements regarding transparency for consumers and prohibitions on certain types of commission arrangements which are in place between financial intermediaries, such as brokers and financial advisers, and product producers, such as banks and insurance firms. The CBI is seeking to minimise the risk of conflicts of interest relating to commissions which may arise when consumers receive financial advice from an intermediary.

What is required under the new rules?

The CBI will require intermediaries to publish details of the commissions they receive from product producers on their websites. In addition, the CBI will no longer permit intermediaries to describe themselves and their regulated activities as ‘independent’ where they accept and retain commissions in circumstances where consumer advice is provided.

Certain criteria must be met in order for commissions to be deemed acceptable. A commission which is linked to targets which do not consider a consumer’s best interests will be deemed a conflict of interest and will be prohibited.

Certain hospitality will be prohibited, including golf trips and tickets to sporting events. Any commission received in the form of non-monetary benefits must demonstrably enhance the quality of the service to the consumer in order for it to be permitted.

How will the rules be supervised?

The CBI uses a number of methods to monitor compliance with consumer protection requirements including conducting inspections and specific reviews on particular topics.

Supervisors will be able to request details of any non-monetary benefits provided to an intermediary, including the rationale explaining how the benefits enhance the quality of the service to the consumer. Intermediaries will be obliged to provide this information where requested.

Conclusion

The CBI’s new rules in relation to commission arrangements will come into effect on 31 March 2020.

It is essential that financial institutions, brokers and financial advisers become familiar with the new rules and the obligations which will be owed to consumers as a result of the new rules. These stakeholders should review their existing practices and take active measures to put in place systems which ensure compliance with the updated Consumer Protection Code 2012, in advance of the 31 March 2020 deadline.