EU Commission - Disclosure, inducements, and suitability rules for retail investors study - Final Report

Financial markets, within and beyond the EU internal market, are characterised by their complexity, with the risk that decisions made by consumers do not necessarily serve their real needs when entering these complex market as (potential) private buyers – but rather benefit the suppliers or intermediaries involved in the sale of financial products. The diversity of the products and the way they are presented makes it challenging for many consumers to perform a thorough and rational screening of information and make an informed decision process by weighing up the (absolute and relative) risks and costs of different investment offers against their (potential) returns. There is therefore a risk that (new) investment decisions are being driven by factors other than rational choice. EU legislation in the area of retail investor protection aims to address, at least partly, challenges stemming from the information asymmetry and lack of product transparency. It aims to make the supply of financial products more easily “navigable” for consumers through pre-contractual disclosure and also to ensure that advisors act in the client’s best interests and are able to offer impartial advice on the basis of a clear assessment of the client’s needs, objectives and financial situation. It aims to prevent conflicts of interest and ensure sure that potential conflicts of interest are disclosed. In this context, the European Commission commissioned a study to feed into the development of the retail investment strategy announced for 2022, which is one of the actions planned under the Capital Markets Union’s Action Plan1. The aim of the Retail Investment Strategy is to respond to new challenges in the market, such as the increasing digitalisation of investment advice and the use of digital distribution channels. The objectives of the Retail Investment Strategy as defined in the CMU Action Plan are expected to ensure that retail investors in the EU: benefit from adequate protection; are offered bias-free advice and fair treatment; have access to open markets with a variety of competitive and cost-efficient financial services and products; and are provided with transparent, comparable and understandable information about products. The CMU Action Plan also defines 16 action areas. Action area 8 – building retail investors’ trust in capital markets – covers issues at the core of this study, notably inducements and disclosure.