Move by 10 firms in 2013 over Fundsupermart insurance product offer anti-competitive: CCS

SINGAPORE - The Competition Commission of Singapore (CCS) has provisionally found that ten financial advisory firms were party to an anti-competitive agreement against iFast Financial, a financial adviser.

iFast, which also deals in securities, had offered a 50 per cent commission rebate on life insurance products on Fundsupermart.com, its online unit trust distribution arm, but took down the offer four days after its April 30, 2013 launch.

This followed some unhappiness among industry players who saw the rebate as a price war tactic.

The Association of Financial Advisers (AFA), which has the ten financial firms as its members, had then expressed its members' concern to Fundsupermart, noting that "the tone and language used in its postings could be detrimental to the reputation and professionalism of other financial advisers".

CCS initiated an investigation against the ten under the Competition Act following a Straits Times report of the withdrawal of the offer as well as after receiving complaints on the matter.

The investigation found that there was an agreement during an AFA meeting on May 2, 2013 as well as further coordination among the ten financial advisory companies to apply pressure on iFAST to withdraw its Fundsupermart Offer, the watchdog said in a press release Thursday afternoon.

"Under the Competition Act, business entities should not enter into any agreement with the object or effect of preventing, restricting or distorting competition," CCS release said. "They should independently determine their responses to competition and refrain from participating in any discussion, coordination, or plan which is anti-competitive in nature."

CCS has given six weeks to the ten firms to make their representations in the case.

The statutory board investigates alleged anti-competitive activities and imposes suitable remedies, directions and financial penalties upon infringement.