JIS News

Story Highlights

  • The code stems from growing public concern about banking fees
  • A “forthright” report addressing service fees, along with the proposed code, emerged from the project
  • The local banking representatives requested modifications when the CAC presented the proposal

Discussions are ongoing between the Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC) and representatives of the local banking sector on a proposed code of conduct to govern their operations.

The CAC is pursuing the code’s implementation against the background of growing public concern about the extent of fees which banks currently charge customers/clients for services provided.

Chairperson of the CAC, Lorna Green, says the code evolved from a regional project, funded and developed by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), in collaboration with the governments of Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and Barbados, and facilitated under a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) among the parties.

A copy of the MoU, acquired by JIS News, informs that the regional initiative – ‘Promotion of Consumer Protection in the Caribbean Project’ – lists six organisations as the implementing parties.

These include: regional consumer organisation, the Caribbean Consumer Council (CCC); the CAC; National Consumers League of Jamaica; Barbados Consumer Research Organization (BARCRO), and Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs of Barbados (DCCA); and Trinidad and Tobago Ministry of Legal Affairs, Consumer Affairs Division.

Additionally, the MoU names world consumer groups federation, Consumers International (CI), as also having “a mutual interest in the development of an environment conducive to competitive markets and the promotion of consumer protection within competition regimes within the Caribbean region.”

Speaking at the CAC’s Consumer Protection Act (CPA) sensitisation workshop at the Jamaica Conference Centre (JCC), downtown Kingston, on September 18, Mrs. Green said a “forthright” report addressing service fees and the overall relationship and interaction between the banking sector and consumers, along with the proposed code, emerged from the project.

“This banking code, which is fairly simple (states that the institutions) tell consumers what interest rates you (banks) are charging them (customers); have them (customers) come in and get their documents, and give them (customers) a cooling off period to consult about what to do,” she said.

“It also speaks to access for the physically challenged; telling customers at the automated teller machines how they are going to be charged (and) giving you an option to back out before you make the transaction,” Mrs. Green added.

She said that Trinidad and Tobago, and Barbados have already signed off on the code, and that local banking representatives requested modifications when the CAC presented the proposal.

“We have revised our proposal (down)…more than that which was signed by the remainder of our sister countries in the Caribbean…just to get to a point of agreement,” Mrs. Green said.

The CAC Chairperson advised, however, that the bankers responded with a proposal which she described as “even more watered down” than what obtained, and which the CAC expressed reservations about.

“We (CAC) are saying no to that alternative. (We) would not recommend to the Minister (of Industry, Investment and Commerce) or the Ministry to affix their signatures to this, because it would be a travesty for us in the Caribbean to sign on to something like this,” she said.

Mrs. Green said the CAC and the bankers are still in dialogue about the code, ahead of public consultations.

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