Take up consumer protection issue, G20 told

The Hindu, November 11, 2010

Consumers International, the apex body of 220 consumer organisations in 115 countries, has asked the G20 leaders now meeting in Seoul, South Korea, to take up actively the agenda for protection of consumer of financial services so that consumers have access to stable, fair and competitive financial services.

The consumer organisations have also called for establishment of an experts’ group on consumer financial protection which would report to the G20 summit next year.In an open letter to Korean President Lee Myung-bak and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, representatives of the consumer bodies who include Samuel Ochieng, President, Consumers International and Chief Executive, CIN, Kenya, and James A. Guest, Vice-President, Consumers International and President and CEO, Consumers Union of U.S. Inc, said the financial crisis highlighted an emergency in financial services.

International cooperation on financial consumer protection has the potential to deliver substantial savings for individual governments, the letter says.

“Consumers International’s members in large and small, rich and poor countries are dealing with complaints about financial products and services every day. And each year the global economy creates up to 150 million new consumers of financial services, many of whom are in countries where consumer protection and financial literacy are woefully inadequate,” said the letter signatories to which include Pradeep S. Mehta, Secretary-General, CUTS International.

Another signatory from India is Nirmala Desikan, Trustee, Consumers’ Association of India.

“This would be a first step in ensuring that consumers from both developed and developing nations have access to stable, fair and competitive financial services. Getting this right is not only vital to consumers but also to the ongoing stability of the world economy,” they said.

“Poor financial consumer protection, as exemplified by US sub-prime mortgages, was a key catalyst for the financial crisis. The interconnected nature of global banking then spread the crisis rapidly from country to country, threatening livelihoods, savings and social stability. People around the world will live with the consequences for years to come,” they warned.

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