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New guidelines on investment ads to be implemented by end-2015

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The Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore (ASAS) said on Monday that new guidelines on advertisements of investments in financial instruments and properties will be implemented by the end of the year.

THE Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore (ASAS) said on Monday that new guidelines on advertisements of investments in financial instruments and properties will be implemented by the end of the year.

Tan Sze Wee, chairman of ASAS, said the regulator is working together with media owners who are members of its council, the Monetary Authority of Singapore and the Council for Estate Agencies to enhance the existing advertising code in these areas.

"Proposed enhancements include raising the standards of disclosure and strengthening measures to deal with advertisers who repeatedly place misleading advertisements."

Dr Tan added that the move will give the public a better understanding of the risks of the investment and greater protection against recalcitrant advertisers.

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The move comes on the same day the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) issued a warning on investing in foreign properties. It also urged the relevant authorities to review existing rules governing developers selling foreign properties here.

Said Lim Biow Chuan, CASE's president: "We strongly urge the relevant authorities to review existing legislation to ensure that developers who sell their foreign properties locally abide by the same minimum standards in information disclosure that local developers have to meet."

The developers should commit to "truthful and honest claims and not make misleading or false representations to investors in order to sell their properties", he added.

To ensure investors are able to make well-informed decisions, CASE suggested that developers selling foreign properties here provide information fact sheets which include data such as the financial standing of the developer, the developer's obligations and a proper valuation of the property.

The association said it had received 13 complaints in 2013 and 2014 from consumers who had purchased property overseas, with some cases involving losses of more than S$100,000 by the investor.

Most of the complaints involved investors who were unable to get back promised returns or payouts, said the association.

CASE said many investors were lured by promises of high rental yields or high capital growth and that many of the investors were unable to get updates on their investments and, in some cases, lost contact with the property investment company.

Singaporeans have been reported to be one of the top real estate buyers in Asia, noted CASE, which cautioned that investments in unfamiliar markets hold high risks including foreign-exchange fluctuations, sovereign risks and interest rate risks.

"The recent warning by analysts from Maybank about the glut of homes in the Iskandar region is a timely reminder to consumers about the potential high risks involved in investing in overseas properties," said the association.

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