Hong Kong's insurance industry is largely self-regulated, leading to concerns about the effectiveness of consumer representation. The insurance industry is split into three tiers - insurers, intermediaries or insurance agents and consumers. Each group is represented by three main self-regulated bodies that aim to serve various interests, mainly those of the public. The Hong Kong Federation of Insurers (HKFI) acts as a bridge, and plays a significant role by representing insurers. Through its members, which make up more than 90 per cent of SAR insurers, it provides regulatory support to the Government. 'We all work together with common interests and objectives, among which are to assist the Government on legislation and other matters affecting insurers and reinsurers,' new HKFI chairman Choy Chung-foo said. Under its wing is the Insurance Registration Board (IRB), which registers insurance agents and handles public complaints. The HKFI also supports the Government by providing consultation and feedback from the insurance industry for the Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF). It has also held seminars and run advertising campaigns to promote public awareness. 'Our current concentration is still on MPF and health care,' Mr Choy said. 'We are working through intermediaries to reach the employers and employees. As for the Green Paper on the Healthcare Financing System, with our experience and expertise, we will certainly make valuable inputs on the recommendations in the papers.' To maintain standard practices, members are required to abide by an industrial code of conduct. 'They pledge to support the public and if any breach the code, they face being voted down by the insurance public and [could] go out of business,' Mr Choy said. It is questionable how a self-regulatory body of insurers can avoid a conflict of interest with consumers. But Mr Choy puts it this way: 'To promote the interests of the industry and companies, we need to look after the consumers as well. Without them we cannot survive.' While the HKFI represents insurers, the Life Underwriters Association (LUA) represents life insurance agents. LUA chairman David Ng said: 'Our role is to combine life insurance intermediaries to provide a self-regulatory system and to raise the ethical standards of life insurance agents.' He said bringing agents together had increased their skills and reduced undesirable practices. Standardising agents' practices had also cut poaching among insurers. The organisation had gained more recognition and status since the implementation of the Insurance Intermediary Qualifying Assurance Examination this year. 'Our classes for enhancement programmes shot up from two in 1994 to 40 last year, after the Government introduced the examination,' Mr Ng said. 'It is a positive indication. In the past, encouragement and support from insurers were lacking, now they are picking up.' One of the major challenges is getting insurers' continued support towards a common goal. Consumers who have complaints about the conduct of agents can raise them with the LUA or the HKFI. 'We will investigate the cases if the complaint is against a member of LUA, otherwise we'll put forward the case to HKFI,' Mr Ng said. Another avenue for consumers with insurance-related complaints is the Insurance Claims Complaints Bureau, which is financed by insurers. It provides a free service for complainants on all types of personal insurance policy.