Proposals to allow investors to participate directly in the Central Clearing and Settlement System (CCASS) were welcomed yesterday by brokers and the Consumer Council but concerns remain about the cost structure of the new model. On Thursday, Hong Kong Securities Clearing Co, which runs CCASS, said investors should be allowed to open independent accounts in the system by the second half of next year. Consumer Council chief executive Pamela Chan said the council needed time to study the proposals but in principle it supported the idea. 'The new working models enable investors to have more information about their shares held in the clearing system, which will help to eliminate the chances for brokers to transfer investors' shares without their consent,' she said. 'The Consumer Council will support any move that will increase protection for investors.' The council has been urging Hongkong Clearing to let investors have their own accounts in the system following the collapse of several small brokers last year. Mrs Chan said she was particularly concerned about the price investors might need to pay for the service and said the council would hold talks with Hongkong Clearing on the issue. The permanent honorary president of the Hong Kong Stockbrokers Association, Chu Chung-tin, said that although the subscription fee for investors would be just $300 a month if there were 1,000 accounts, investors would also need to pay other charges such as settlement, custody, dividend collection and corporate action fees. 'It will possibly be quite expensive for the investor to use the service and thus discourage the level of demand,' he said. Another concern is that hotlines which connect brokers and the clearing system are already heavily used. If the system is extended to investors and requires them to affirm all transfer instructions, its workload would be very heavy. Mr Chu said he supported the proposal in principle because it would give investors the option to choose to put their shares in their own accounts instead of only into their brokers' accounts. A stock exchange ruling council said the proposal would give investors more confidence in brokers and in turn stimulate activity among small investors in the market. The Principal Assistant Secretary for Financial Services, John Wan Chung-on, said the Government would consider market reaction before responding to Hongkong Clearing's proposals.