ALTHOUGH the 2016 World Consumer Day, March 15 might have come and gone, but the gains received will linger in the minds of stakeholders.
Stakeholders that spoke at 2016 Consumer Day Symposium, organised by Brand Journalists Association of Nigeria (BJAN) last week, followed the theme from the World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD) theme: Antibiotic Resistance with “antibiotics off the menu” addressed one of the worst bank customers’ experiences.
The forum raised concerns over cost automated teller machine (ATM) withdrawals, debit card issuance and renewals fee of N1000, ATM management charges of N100 yearly, new Stamp Duty charge of N50 on every credit of over N1000, online transfer charges, reintroduction of cost of transaction (CoT) under a new guise of Monthly Account Maintenance Charge of N1/mille.
They also frowned at other levies by default the yoke of which were considered too heavy on the frail necks of the customers without the chance to negotiate. Stakeholders are of the opinion that if this trend continues, it will erode the gains recorded by previous banking reforms, discourage the informal sector from keeping their money with banks and weaken the banking sector on the long-run.
The Chairman of TPT, a public relations agency, Mr. Tokunbo Modupe, who was the key speaker at the symposium said both corporate and individual banking customers are worried by the current trends of multiple and excessive charges.
He said while last year alone, CBN investigated over 6,000 complaints from banks’ customers and compelled the banks ‘to refund over N6.2 billion to affected customers’, adding that the apex bank however failed to state the total cash claimed by customers, whether or not the affected customers were satisfied or not with the cash refunded and whether the culprit banks were sanctioned.
He said such information would have assisted in appreciating the convergence or divergence of what was claimed and what was refunded, the feelings of the claimant customers about the final outcome of their complaints, and CBN’s ‘resolve’ to continuously enforce the provisions of the Revised Guide to Bank Charges.
“Of course, there have been many complaints by customers of banks about unauthorised and illegal charges. Fleecing of customers has become the rule rather than the exception.
The excesses come under different descriptions such as management fees, processing fees, interest charges, CoT, card maintenance fees, account maintenance fees, deposit, withdrawal and transfer, SMS alert fees, and ATM fees.
Also, the President of CAFON, Mrs. Sola Salako, who rallied consumer advocacy groups penultimate week for a No Banking Day protest, said banking customers should expect more shocks as CBN is a about to release banking charges for the next three years.
She said from the draft copy published on CBN website, the annual card maintenance fee has now been reintroduced as monthly fee.
“I plead to Nigerians to take time out to study the draft and start a conversation about it.
This is the time for all of us to stand up against these.”
However, the President, Bank Customers Association of Nigeria, Dr. Uju Ogubunka, said banks should not be blamed for excessive and multiple charges. While saying he is opposed to spurious, he said customers should be blamed because they don’t take their time to read the guides to banking. “The problem is with customers. Most people don’t know there is a guide to bank charges but they all know when they are overcharged. Most customers don’t know their brand manager.”