The Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC) is embarking on a public education campaign, geared at strengthening consumer protection and awareness in relation to the development of a banking code for Jamaica.
Speaking at a JIS 'Think Tank' on September 27, Chairman of the CAC, Lorna Green, said that the campaign is intended to educate consumers about the proposed banking code for Jamaica and how they can benefit from its development in terms of greater access to banking services, fee disclosure and transparency, clarity of contracts, reasonable customer service and timely policy change notifications.
The development of the code is part of the 'Promotion of Consumer Protection in the Caribbean' project funded by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), which involves Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago.
Among the objectives of the project, which is being implemented by Consumers International (CI) through a unit housed at the offices of the CAC, is to "strengthen the technical capacity in the areas of banking and credit for non government and government consumer agencies."
The banking code is put forward for consideration as a voluntary code of conduct, which sets standards of good banking practice and should serve as a guide for the banks to follow when dealing with persons who are, or may become its customers, in order to promote transparency and avoid conflict.
The Chairman pointed out that the specific goal of the public education campaign is to establish a platform of advocacy for fair financial services, while educating consumers about their right to choose the best financial institution that is transparent, fair and accountable to its
"We want to go out to the civil society coalitions, the organisations that touch the grassroots, the middle class and the businesses…anywhere that we can get the message out. We want to sit and engage with persons, talk to them about their rights and responsibilities. It will be an ongoing campaign, so that when it is through, we can measure that persons have heard, understood and know what to do next," Miss Green said.
The Chairman informed that the campaign was rolled out recently with representatives of the CAC appearing on talkshow programmes and engaging in discussions about the banking code.
"This is the sensitisation phase. We are going to various media houses, ensuring that we get the word out where persons are most likely to listen, to read, to see. So, we are looking at TV, radio, printed material, brochures, handouts, information on websites, press conferences…whatever medium to reach the various demographics," she said.
The Chairman called for urgent buy-in from the Jamaica Bankers Association (JBA), noting that “they are critical stakeholders in the overall success and growth of our economy."
She urged consumers to be agents of change, become knowledgeable and empowered. "We want Jamaica to get to the level where you see that your right is fundamental," Miss Green said.