General Principles on Consumer Protection Policy at the ASF level

Purpose and scope

Through the Consumer Protection Policy we aim to strengthen the integrated organisational framework necessary for the development of the ASF's programmes in the field of consumer protection and financial education, through preventive actions to monitor and warn of possible violations of consumer rights and interests and through reactive actions following supervision, control and petition resolution operations.  

In this context, ensuring the protection of consumers of non-bank financial services, together with maintaining the stability of the three supervised markets, shapes our entire strategy, around which all the tasks and powers conferred by the legal framework are circumscribed.

Also, by proactively orienting the entire activity of the ASF, by continuing to strengthen risk-based supervision, both from the perspective of prudential and conduct supervision, and by implementing the new legislative provisions specific to consumer protection (MIFID II, IDD) we ensure the adaptation and continuous development of the consumer protection function. 

The activities aimed at consumer protection at the level of the ASF are in line with the general principles required at the level of European authorities and support the organisation and development of a stable supervisory and regulatory framework.

In line with market developments, the ongoing improvement of consumer protection activity and the updating of the levers and ways in which actions are carried out is a constant concern of the Financial Supervisory Authority.

Thus, all the organisational structures within the ASF have the intrinsic aim of protecting consumers through a unified approach to the regulatory and supervisory aspects of the activity of regulated entities and by ensuring financial discipline, compliance with the rules of conduct and transparency.

By monitoring activities that constitute abusive or misleading practices by some non-bank financial services providers and providing mechanisms to ensure that consumers are aware of financial product information and their rights to make informed decisions, we aim to create an appropriate framework for enhancing consumer confidence and thus the development of non-bank financial markets.

The general principles of the Consumer Protection Policy at the level of the ASF comply with the legal provisions in force and support consumer protection activity in all its aspects.



Objectives and principles

At the integrated level, the major objectives enshrined in the provisions of Emergency Ordinance No 93/2012 on the establishment, organisation and functioning of the Financial Supervisory Authority, approved with amendments and additions by Law No 113/2013, with subsequent amendments and additions, and in the provisions of sectoral financial supervisory legislation are taken into account:

  • ensuring the stability, competitiveness and smooth functioning of securities markets, promoting confidence in those markets and in investments in securities, and
  • ensuring the protection of operators and investors against unfair, abusive and fraudulent practices;
  • promoting stability of insurance business and protecting policyholders' rights;
  • ensuring the efficient operation of the private pension system and protecting the interests of participants and beneficiaries.

The general principles underlying this Financial Consumer Protection Policy can be summarised as follows:

  1. Ensuring fair and equitable treatment of consumers - this objective must be an integral part of the governance and organisational culture of non-bank financial services providers. Effective consumer protection requires fair and equitable treatment by both the financial service provider and the competent authority. In order to achieve the ultimate goal of consumer protection, the regulations contain strict and clear rules, both on the organisation and functioning of supervised entities and on compliance with standards of conduct;
  2. Ensuring transparency - consumers must be fully, fairly and accurately informed of the benefits, risks and significant features of the financial products/services they intend to contract in order to help them make a decision that best suits their needs and interests;
  3. Financial education and awareness - developing appropriate mechanisms to help potential and existing consumers improve their knowledge and skills to understand risks properly and make informed choices; financial service providers must ensure that information about consumers' rights and obligations is clear and easy to understand and presented in a form accessible to them;
  4. Compliance with conduct of business rules - pursuing the best interest of the consumer and avoiding or preventing conflicts of interest; The new supervisory approach involves both prospective and proportionate risk monitoring and compliance checks on compliance with conduct of business rules.  By ensuring convergence of supervisory processes and practices, we are building the foundations for better consumer protection;
  5. Protecting consumers against misleading or deceptive practices - making relevant information available to consumers and setting up internal verification and control procedures to protect against fraud and deception of any kind;
  6. Handling complaints from consumers of non-bank financial products - ensuring an accessible mechanism for filing and, respectively, resolving complaints, both at the level of financial service providers and at the A.S.F. level.


Sectoral Measures

By implementing the technical standards adopted by the European authorities in the field of financial services, the ASF ensures the harmonisation of legislation and best practices for the protection of consumers of non-bank financial products in Romania and thus contributes to the consolidation and integration of supervised financial markets within the European single market. Thus, in order to achieve the objective of protecting consumers of non-banking financial products, the ASF carries out:

  • preventive activities of information, identification and monitoring of potential shortcomings in the activity of supervised entities, sending alerts to consumers
  • reactive activities by ordering plans of measures, interventions concerning the suspension or prohibition of the distribution of financial products, the settlement of petitions addressed to the authority by consumers, according to the provisions of Government Ordinance no.27/2002 on the regulation of the activity of settlement of petitions, approved by Law no.233/2002 and the relevant legislation in the specialized field of the ASF.

Consumer protection is therefore intrinsically linked to market surveillance activity with the aim of identifying practices that do not comply with legal requirements and eliminating the provision or distribution of financial services and products that do not comply with imposed and/or declared requirements.

Financial innovation and the digitisation of financial services contribute to the development of markets but at the same time present new risks and specific challenges and require the identification of appropriate measures to ensure adequate investor protection.

ASF is constantly considering these risks, which are also addressed as a priority within the InsurTech HUB group, coordinated by ASF, providing know-how support and education in the field, promoting the removal of legislative barriers, the creation of a testing environment and the application of European requirements on protection against cyber risks, by synchronizing with the steps taken at European level in the field, including by educating Romanian companies on the risks and benefits of such insurance.

Specific actions and conclusions

The ASF ensures the necessary mechanisms for the proper functioning of the non-bank financial markets, the stability and integrity of the financial sector in general, choosing to be a forward-looking authority and combining in its supervision the principles of consumer protection, innovation compliance and risk-based approach. To this end, in order to promote the development of the market in a sound manner and to enhance consumer protection, the core regulatory and supervisory functions have been reviewed and optimised through a unified approach to certain processes and the introduction of new tools to identify and mitigate risks.

Also, in order to improve the activities under the consumer protection function, the ASF continues to ensure the modernisation of the management of complaints, the issuing of warnings and alerts in situations considered risky for consumers, the improvement of the alternative dispute resolution framework SAL-FIN, the development and provision of guides and brochures with specific topics for the interest of consumers. Complementary to these activities, the FSA initiates programmes, participates in seminars and colloquia and collaborates with educational institutions and other public authorities for the creation and implementation of the national strategy to increase the financial education of the population.

In conclusion, it can be argued that through the Consumer Protection Policy promoted by the Financial Supervisory Authority, all the activities carried out in order to exercise regulatory, licensing, supervisory and control powers, as well as those ensuring the resolution of complaints and financial education are subordinated to the fundamental objectives of consumer protection and stability of the supervised non-bank financial markets. Together, these components foster a healthy development with long-term positive influences on the evolution of the non-bank financial market and the growth of the number of consumers of financial products and services offered by regulated entities operating in these markets.