The city's seven stockbrokerage bodies have called for the government to bring back a minimum brokerage commission to help them survive in an increasingly hostile market. But their push is likely to be an uphill battle. In fact, even if the authorities did reintroduce a minimum commission, some small players would still find it hard to keep their head above water amid lower turnover and the changing market. The Hong Kong Securities Association, the Institute of Securities Dealers and others jointly sent a letter to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying calling for the partial return of the commission to allow brokers to collect at least 0.25 per cent of a trade if the transaction was below HK$200,000. Before it was scrapped nine years ago, all brokers charged at least 0.25 per cent commission on all transactions. Since then, commissions have become freely negotiated between brokers and their clients. Some firms have been so aggressive that they offer a fixed rate for customers, allowing them to conduct unlimited trades each month. Other firms waive commissions on the first month of trading by new customers. Brokers say the average commission rate is now between 0.07 per cent and 1.8 per cent. They say that such cut-throat competition has made it hard for small players to survive and that's why they are lobbying the government to let them keep the minimum slice of transactions below the HK$200,000 threshold. For bigger trades, the small brokers say they will agree to let customers and their brokers freely negotiate commissions. The issue is set to become a major focus as campaigning in the Legislative Council elections heats up later this year. Chim Pui-chung, who is running for re-election for the seat representing brokers, is fighting for the commission's reintroduction. 'Some small brokers cannot make ends meet and their families are suffering,' Chim said. 'Their income has been seriously eroded by the cut-throat competition. That is the result of scrapping the minimum brokerage commission.' Up until now, the government has not staked a position on the issue but it is believed to be reluctant to let the stock exchange bring the rule back. Before 2003, the government spent a decade battling brokers to have the commission abolished, bringing the city into line with international practice. But even if the government does allow the minimum commission to be reinstated some brokers may still not survive, given the market's substantial downturn. Investors are reluctant to wade into the market because of the dent the euro-zone crisis has left in market sentiment. Last month, turnover slumped to HK$45.99 billion a day, down 35 per cent from last year's daily average. Last month, the market share of the smallest group of 350 brokers dropped to a record low of 9.09 per cent, compared with the 58.28 per cent share held in total by the biggest 14 players. The 51 mid-tier brokerages had a market share of 32.63 per cent. If the minimum brokerage commission does come back, some investors might cut their trading even further, possibly leading to even lower turnover. And if that happens, it might do more harm than good to the smallest players.