Discussions between the Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC) and the Jamaica Bankers’ Association (JBA) on a draft voluntary Banking Code of Conduct, are at an advanced stage.
The proposed Code of Conduct, drafted in 2011 under a Consumers International/Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) project, recommends principles and rules governing the manner in which banking institutions should operate, particularly in relation to their clients and other stakeholders.
Speaking at a World Consumer Rights Day media briefing at the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce, in New Kingston, on March 15, CAC Chairperson, Lorna Green, said the draft document, which is consistent with international best practices, outlines minimum service standards required of banks, in better protecting consumers’ interests. She expressed the hope that the parties would sign on off on the document soon.
Industry, Investment and Commerce Minister, Hon. Anthony Hylton, who also addressed the media briefing, noted that the proposed code aims to encourage higher standards, promote transparency, and avoid conflict, within the banking industry.
Key commitments under the proposal, he pointed out, include: full access by consumers to all services provided by banking institutions; displays of service standards by institutions at all their branches and on their websites, inclusive of average waiting times in banking, response times to complaints or queries, and turnaround for service applications.
“In addition, the banks will ensure that their staff is trained to courteously, competently, and efficiently discharge their functions. They will encourage the use of banking solutions, particularly for services which have reduced or no user-associated costs,” the Minister stated.
Regarding contracts, Mr. Hylton said the banks are expected to ensure that these are fair and that rights and responsibilities are explicitly outlined. He pointed out, however, that the bank cannot unilaterally change the terms of a contract, adding that where this becomes necessary, clients be given at least 30 days notice.
The proposed code will also facilitate the establishment of an internal resolution process, to address disputes, at no cost to the client.
Mr. Hylton pointed out that where a breach of the code results in the client suffering financial loss, “the bank will compensate the consumer accordingly.” He added that if the breach results in no such loss, “the bank may offer restitution, in keeping with good customer standards.”
“The code is being advocated from the perspective of protection of the consumer, and the CAC will continue to engage in dialogue with the Jamaica Bankers’ Association,” the Minister said.
By Douglas Mcintosh, JIS Reporter