Competition appeal board upholds penalty for IPP

Financial advisory firm has to pay full sum for anti-competitive move against newcomer

A financial advisory firm found to have engaged in anti-competitive practices has failed in a bid to have a penalty reduced.

An appeal by IPP Financial Advisers seeking a substantial reduction in the financial penalty imposed by the Competition Commission of Singapore (CCS) has been dismissed by the Competition Appeal Board (CAB).

IPP was ordered to pay the original penalty sum with interest, as well as to pay CCS' legal costs.

The original decision, which was handed down in March last year, was the first of its kind made against a firm in the financial services industry.

The competition watchdog had found that IPP, along with nine other financial advisory firms, had infringed the Competition Act.

The group of 10 firms were found to have engaged in an anti-competitive agreement in 2013 to pressure a competitor, iFast Financial, to withdraw its offer of a 50 per cent commission rebate on competing life insurance products on the Fundsupermart website.

iFast's offer had disrupted the financial advisory industry as it used its online platform to reach out to its clients, allowing it to save on distribution costs.

DON'T GANG UP

The disruptive entry of a new competitor with an innovative offering would inevitably cause displeasure and outcry among the existing market players. However, market players need to decide their own individual competitive response.

MR TOH HAN LI, CCS chief executive.

However, it was forced to withdraw the offer a few days after its launch, owing to collective pressure from the parties.

The 10 firms, including IPP, had been slapped with penalties totalling nearly $1 million. IPP had received one of the highest penalties of $239,851.

It had appealed to the CAB, seeking a substantial reduction in the financial penalty imposed by CCS.

But after hearing the evidence of IPP's witnesses and the arguments of IPP and CCS, the CAB affirmed the earlier decision and dismissed all of IPP's grounds of appeal.

Mr Toh Han Li, CCS chief executive, said: "The disruptive entry of a new competitor with an innovative offering would inevitably cause displeasure and outcry among the existing market players.

"However, market players need to decide their own individual competitive response.

"CCS will take the necessary enforcement measures to allow new entrants to fairly compete with the existing market players on a level playing field, such that the market becomes more efficient, innovative and responsive to consumer's needs."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 03, 2017, with the headline 'Competition appeal board upholds penalty for IPP'. Print Edition | Subscribe