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News : Ban on Bank Teller Sales of Financial Products to be Lifted
March 14, 2014 -- The Coalition government is pushing to change the law so that bank tellers can sell an unlimited range of financial products across the counter.
Laws were introduced last year by the former Labor government to better protect consumers seeking financial advice following a string of financial planning disasters that cost investors billions of dollars.
Under Labor's reforms most commissions and other types of ''conflicted'' remuneration - pay that can influence the type of advice provided - is banned. Conflicted pay includes non-monetary kickbacks for achieving sales targets and higher commissions for recommending one product over another.
Conflicted pay is banned whether financial products are sold under ''general'' advice or by financial advisers under ''personal'' advice; though commissions are allowed on some types of insurance.
But now the Abbott government is proposing that bank tellers, planners and call-centre workers for deposit-taking institutions - banks, credit unions and building societies - be exempt from the ban on conflicted pay as long as the advice is general. Tellers selling more complex products would have to do some additional training. The government hopes to introduce the first of several amendments to Parliament next week.
Leon Carter, national secretary of the Financial Sector Union, said: ''This is what the banks lobbied for; they want to have unfettered access to every customer and they want their staff to sell regardless of the needs of the customer.''
Matt Levey, director of campaigns at consumer group Choice, said the amendment would mean more people were given general advice by tellers who had the incentive of commissions. Fewer people would likely receive personal advice, he said. ''It is a sales pitch driven by a commission with no relevance to the person's financial circumstances,'' he said.
Under Labor's changes, general advice on simple banking products, such as term deposits and general insurance, continued to be exempt from the bans. The government's amendment widens that to any financial product as long as the advice is general.
Federal Assistant Treasurer Arthur Sinodinos said this amendment and others were needed to cut red tape and reduce the costs of doing business.
Senator Sinodinos told ABC's Lateline on Tuesday that bank tellers would have to tell customers that the advice is general and does not take into account their personal circumstances. Customers who received general advice would be subject to a cooling-off period. John Flavell, executive general manager of wealth advice at National Australia Bank, said the exemption for general advice was needed.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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