Japan to regulate 'insurance shops'

Japan to regulate 'insurance shops'

TOKYO - Agencies that sell competing insurance policies to walk-in customers in the Japanese market will face new rules meant to stop them from favouring products that earn them high commissions.

The Financial Services Agency is looking to introduce the regulations on so-called insurance shops in the spring of 2016, in conjunction with the rollout of a revised insurance law.

The idea is to catch unscrupulous vendors that feign neutrality while letting the profit motive dictate their recommendations. The shops, which sell policies from 30 to 50 insurers, will have to show customers charts that let them compare the plans' costs and benefits. They will also disclose whether they push a particular insurer's policies harder because they have a capital tie-up with that company.

Insurance shops have not had to contend with such clear-cut rules before. The number of shops operated by the four big players in the field, led by Hoken No Madoguchi Group, has nearly quintupled to more than 1,000 in five years. The Tokyo-based company had 500 locations as of last year, as well as partnerships with regional banks that let it sell policies at their branches.

The National Consumer Affairs Center has received complaints about insurance shops, including from a woman in her 60s who says she was recommended a less desirable plan than the one she originally considered.

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