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Bank customers get respite as CBN steps up consumer protection  

Recent statistic from the Nigeria Interbank Settlement System (NIBSS) shows that there are about 65 million accounts in Nigeria owned by about 35 million people with unique bank verification number (BVN). Most working adults have at least one bank account, some people even have multiple accounts.

These accounts are managed and operated by the Deposit Money Banks, Microfinance Banks, and Primary Mortgage Banks. The transactions from customer and customer or corporate organisations are much easier nowadays due to the increasing number of banking customers. Banking generally is safer, faster and more convenient than keeping money outside the system, most of banking transactions happen smoothly and with no issues, however, there are times when the bank fails in its service to you, or there is some kind of issue which you need to sort out. Due to the nature of the service the bank provides to you – dealing with your money when things go wrong, it can indeed be an extremely frustrating and stressful time.

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Most banks have in place robust customer complaint/handling systems in place, and there is a structure in place for customers to channel any grievances, and when these interventions fails to yield the desired result,  customers would then result to make complaints about banks (or indeed any other financial institution) to a higher authority, i.e the Central Bank of Nigeria.

Some of the issues bank customers face are unfair or unexplained charges, poor customer service by bank staff, unauthorised transactions on customer accounts through bank transfers or ATM withdrawals etc.

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It is in recognition of this reality that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) recently hinted that  it is considering adopting a template of fines and other sanctions against any bank found to have made illegal deductions or charges on customers’ accounts without evidence of commensurate justification in service quality.

 

The apex bank said it has been inundated with complaints by customers over sundry charges not related to services rendered.

It said it had already constituted a Consumer Protection Department to deal with issues relating to customers’ complaints from their dealings with banks.

While not many people understood the commitment of the Apex to wade into this huge complains, banks customers were however impressed with the idea that the special department to take care of consumer protection is a demonstration of the committee’s commitment to ensure that the consumer derives the maximum benefit from banks.

The action clearly indicated that the incidences of multiple charges by banks have become a great source of concern to the apex bank.

The CBN management led by the Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele went to town, urging  consumers to lodge their complaints to the Consumer Protection Department for thorough investigations and punishment of any bank found culpable.

“The CBN will not take lightly to issues of overcharging of customers by banks and that is why we have issued several exposure drafts and one of them is the guide to banking charges. This is a contract between banks and their customers,” he said.

Figures made available to Daily Trust from the Consumer Protection Department indicates that a total of N24 billion has been refunded to customers of the various commercial banks on the intervention of the CBN.

A breakdown of the figures indicates that N23.1  billion was refunded in Naira. 47,000 British Pound Sterling and 2.3 million United States’ Dollars and 11,000 Euros.

The data further reveals a growing confidence in the CBN resolution mechanism as the apex has so far received 2.75 million complains since January and has resolved 2.7million complains within the time frame.

A breakdown of the complains show that a total of 649,000 complains were made in the first quarter of 2018 and 585,000 were resolved. 737,000 in second quarter, and 652, 000 were resolved. 804,000 on quarter 3, and 733,000 were resolved while quarter 4, which is so far just October and November has received 558,000 complaints and resolved 518,000.

The results are direct manifestation of the consumer protection department intensified  sensitisation campaign, to educate members of the public on their rights in financial transactions.

The Consumer Protection Department, created in 2012, regulates the conduct of financial service providers, to engender trust and confidence in the nation’s financial system.

Hajiya Khadija Kasim, the CBN deputy director of Head Consumer Education, Consumer Protection Department, at a recent sensitisation in Lagos said that CBN had put structures in place, to ensure customers get maximum benefit from financial service providers, and repose confidence on customers in dealing with financial institutions.

She said that the customer protection programme was designed for every Nigerian, irrespective of class and status.

“This exercise is intended to empower Nigerians with requisite knowledge to make informed choices and take effective actions that will enhance their financial well-being.

“It is only when the vast majority of the Nigerian population is financially literate that they can come on board the formal financial system, thereby contributing to financial stability.

“CBN has directed banks to resolve complaints of customers within a two-week time frame; however, there are some cases that are very difficult to resolve within two weeks.

“So, we have encouraged banks to engage those kind of complaints by keeping the complainant informed on the progress of their case, so as to give them a sense of belonging,” she said.

Kasim said the apex bank had developed a Financial Literacy Framework (FLF) to articulate a multi stakeholders approach to the delivery of financial literacy across all financial institutions in Nigeria.

It is imperative to note that the CBN guidelines say that the bank must resolve your complaint within 14 days of receipt of the complaint. If for some reason, the Bank has not satisfactorily resolved the complaint, you may take the issue to the Consumer Protection Department of the CBN.

They will then attempt to resolve the complaint. Please note that you can only take the issue to the CBN after you have made a complaint to the bank and given them 14 days after receipt of the complaint, to resolve it. Apart from resolving the complaint, the CBN also has the powers to impose financial penalties on the Bank for failure to resolve your complaint.

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