Man charged $22,000 in fees after using Tiger Brokers – triple the price of stocks sold
A Singaporean man was charged some $22,000 in settlement fees after making a trade using online brokerage Tiger Brokers – three times the price of the stocks he sold.
Speaking to Mothership.sg, Mr Kong Weng Hong, 29, said he put in orders via Tiger Brokers to sell 5 million shares of a US-listed penny stock priced at US$0.001 each, which adds up to a total trade value of US$5,000 (S$6,900).
After the trades went through, he realised he was charged a settlement fee of $0.003 per share, and the settlement fees amounted to US$16,000 (S$22,000).
The fee had effectively put him in a US$11,000 debt in his Tiger Brokers account.
Mr Kong, who works as an account manager, said he was not “sufficiently informed” of the new settlement fee, which, according to the firm, was enforced in January 2022.
He was also shocked that there was no cap on the fees, which far exceeded his trade value.
“What really shocked me was that I was actually put into debt from transaction fees… Nobody believed me that I was put in debt solely from transaction fees,” he said.
Mr Kong had traded 500,000 shares of the same stock last year (March 2021). That time, he was charged only US$22.50 in platform fees.
When he approached Tiger Brokers about the fee, he received a reply saying that they had informed their customers of revised rates in an e-mail sent on Dec 27, 2021.
Mr Kong said neither the revised rates nor a table displaying the new rates were included in the e-mail, adding that Tiger Brokers had failed to sufficiently inform their customers of the changes.
He said not having a maximum cap on the fees levied made little sense, especially if the transaction fees cost more than the share price itself, as that would mean a loss for anyone selling their shares.
“Who in their right mind would sell their shares if it puts them in debt instead?" he said.
Mr Kong also pointed out that a maximum cap on the settlement fees is implemented by Tiger Brokers Australia and New Zealand, where the settlement fees are capped at 7 per cent of the total trade value.
Mr Kong said he eventually raised the issue to CEO of Tiger Brokers Singapore Eng Thiam Choon and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).
Upon reviewing his case, Tiger Brokers informed him on Apr 29 that they would not waive the US$16,000 settlement fees, and offered a "token sum" of S$50, via a stock voucher.
"Prior to changes in any transaction fee, valued customers like yourself should have been notified with ample notice. Transaction fees are also published on our official website for reference," Tiger Brokers wrote in the same e-mail.
Tiger Brokers also explained in another email dated Apr 27 that the settlement and trading activity fees were both "regular fees" for US stock trading. It added that Tiger Brokers Australia and New Zealand, while under the same group, are separate business entities, which may explain the difference in charges.
Relief in the end
On May 18, Tiger Brokers informed its clients it would be imposing a cap on the settlement fee with effect from May 19. The fee will be capped at 7 per cent of the trade value.
It added that it would contact clients previously affected by the change in settlement fees to arrange for refunds.
Mr Kong was contacted by Tiger Brokers on May 19 to arrange a refund of the fees.
In line with the new cap, the fees for the trades he took in April is now US$511.50, and he will receive a refund of US$15,675.
Nonetheless, Mr Kong said he was “pretty disappointed” with Tiger Brokers, and might not use the platform again.
"If they really cared about their customers, they would have investigated properly from the start on whether these fees made sense, and if the fees, with no cap, were even legal,” he said.
“If I didn’t get MAS and the press involved, how many people would have fallen prey and would they have refunded me my money?"
Update: In response to the Mr Kong's account, a Tiger Brokers spokesman said that it sent out a notification on the fee change on Dec 27, 2021, informing customers that there would be a fee change effective Jan 13, 2022.
“Out of approximately 500,000 users, only 700 customers were negatively impacted by this fee change. Of which, 26 of them ended up with a negative balance after the sale of their shares,” the spokesman said.
The firm then reviewed implementing the fee change after receiving “feedback from various sources”.
“We decided that for the benefit of our users, we will retrospectively implement a cap on the particular fee item causing the issue. And instead of refunding the fees for the 26 affected customers, Tiger Brokers refunded the fees to all 700 affected customers, as a (form of) goodwill.
“Tiger Brokers promptly informed MAS on its review and decision. At no time was Tiger Brokers cautioned by MAS or any regulatory bodies on this commercial matter.”