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Australia proposes new consumer protection powers for corporate regulator

Australia's corporate regulator may get new powers to ban financial products that could be harmful to consumers.

The Australian government on Dec. 21 revealed draft laws to strengthen the regulatory tools available to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, or ASIC. The design and distribution obligations and the product intervention power will ensure that financial products are targeted at the right customers and that ASIC has the power to intervene in the distribution of the product to protect consumers.

Under the design and distribution obligations rules, issuers of financial products will have to identify target markets for their products, select the appropriate distribution channels and periodically review arrangements to ensure that the products are appropriate for consumers.

Distributors of financial products will be required to put in reasonable controls to ensure that products are distributed in accordance with the identified target markets.

Meanwhile, the product intervention power will allow ASIC to intervene in a product's distribution if there is a perceived risk that the product may cause consumers harm. ASIC could require the amendment of product marketing, impose consumer warnings and labeling changes and impose an outright ban on products.

The regulator will also be allowed to ban aspects of remuneration practices, if there is a direct link between remuneration and distribution of the product.

The draft legislation is open to submissions until Feb. 9, 2018.