Online brokers are pinning their hopes on the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) to urge Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing (HKEx) to cut charges for providing stock quotation information to clients. Hong Kong Association of Online Brokers chairman Peter Wong Shiu-hoi said that after its previous vain attempt to persuade the exchange to cut fees, the organisation was lobbying the SFC to play an intermediary role. 'There is an obvious conflict of interest between the exchange and online brokers, so we need a third party to help settle our differences,' Mr Wong said. He also said the SFC appeared to be more willing to listen to industry opinion. For example, after the association's lobbying, the SFC amended its rules allowing investors to open online trading accounts without a face-to-face meeting. The dispute between HKEx and online brokers began after brokerages increasingly jumped into online trading. As the provision of real-time stock quotes is a key service in online trading, it has enabled HKEx to enjoy increasing sales of its stock information to brokers in recent years. HKEx charges five HK cents when a trader clicks to get a real-time stock quote. The exchange also charges HK$200 a month for streaming real-time data - where prices are updated live on computer screens. As online brokers were charged for each customer using the service, they complained that the exchange's fees were too high and would discourage investors from trading online. The brokers formed an association last year and sought to put pressure on the exchange by releasing unofficial surveys showing its fees were among the world's highest. Responding to the plea, HKEx in March suggested an alternative fee structure for its streaming quotes service, charging 10 HK cents per minute with a minimum HK$50 and a cap at HK$250 per month. The proposed structure, however, has received a lukewarm response. Mr Wong said most online clients were day traders who needed stock information frequently and would not see much benefit from a per-minute charging structure. Assuming 20 trading days a month, a trader who chose the new charging method would pay more than HK$200, the existing monthly fee for the service, based on a minimum 100 minutes a day. Moreover, to apply the per-minute charging structure, online brokers would need to largely revamp their trading systems to keep track of every client's usage time, Mr Wong said.