Not enough ‘brain power’ spent on consumers during financial crisis – French Finance Minister, Christine Lagarde to tell consumer world congress

3 May 2011

  • Consumer leaders from more than 60 countries gather in Hong Kong to address the global challenge of financial consumer protection
  • Vice President of Consumers International calls for new rules to reign in ‘abusive’ system
  • Representatives from the Financial Stability Board, the OECD, and the World Bank join discussions on financial services.

In a video address to the Consumers International (CI) World Congress in Hong Kong, Christine Lagarde French Minister of Economic Affairs and chair of the G20 finance ministers in 2011 will say:

“It is my personal belief that on the occasion of the [financial] crisis we didn’t spend a lot of time, nor a lot of brain power on consumers”, going on to say, “consumers were the victims on many occasions and in many instances”.

The message comes as consumer organisations from around the world meet in Hong Kong to debate the state protection for financial consumers.

Financial consumer protection is currently the focus of an unprecedented level of international attention. Following requests from the G20 leaders, the OECD, the Financial Stability Board and the World Bank are all in the process of developing international proposals on the issue. All three organisations will be represented at the CI World Congress to hear the views of consumer organisations.

Madame Lagarde will also say “It is only fair that consumers are part of the process of rebuilding trust and rebuilding regulation and making sure that the same situation does not happen again.”

The message from Madame Lagarde will be followed by a keynote address from James Guest, Vice President of CI and CEO of Consumers Union in the United States. Highlighting the impact of financial abuses in the US, India, Egypt, Spain and Bosnia, James Guest will talk about the significance of the CI campaign on financial services.

James Guest will say:

“The financial services system has become abusive and needs to be reined in. Consumers need protection, and so does the global financial system. It needs to be protected from itself; from the greed and irresponsible behaviour that over several years has pushed the global financial system to the brink of collapse.”

Consumers International has recently released a set of recommendations calling on the G20 to take action on financial consumer protection. The recommendations cover consumer protection for financial transactions, the structure and functions of national financial consumer protection agencies, redress systems, the promotion of competition in the sector, and the safety of consumers’ deposits and investments. The recommendations call for an international organisation to be established to support national bodies and review implementation.

As well as financial services, other issues on the CI World Congress agenda will include sustainable consumption, corporate responsibility, consumer access to safe and nutritious food, and consumer rights in the digital world.

CI President Samuel Ochieng said on the eve of World Congress:

“The 19th Consumers International World Congress is about exploring ways in which we can empower consumers around the issues that really matter in the 21st Century – sustainability, corporate responsibility, safe and nutritious food, access to knowledge in the digital world, and a fair financial system that puts consumers first, not last.”

Chairman of the Hong Kong Consumer Council Professor Anthony Cheung complimented CI for adopting a most fitting theme for this congress ‘Empowering Tomorrow’s Consumers’ He said:

“Tomorrow’s consumers are bound to be confronted by new unprecedented issues arising from a changing world. Their consumer welfare is something that we must focus our attention on as a matter of urgency and priority.”

Posted in Media Statements.

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