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Thursday, March 01, 2007

Consumer Council of Fiji takes up call for a Banking Ombudsman

The Consumer Council has taken up an earlier call made in this blog for a Banking Ombudsman. I had made the call after analysing the rise in profits recorded by the two largest banks in Fiji in my post of 30 January 2007.

In today's Daily Post, the Consumer Council is calling for an immediate appointment of a bank ombudsman following complaints by customers of overcharged bank fees. Reproduced below is the story in the Daily Post.

"THE Consumer Council of Fiji is calling for an immediate appointment of a bank ombudsman following complaints by customers of overcharged bank fees. Council Chairman, Swani Maharaj, yesterday said the council will undertake a research to examine the bank fees, countrywide and how its customers are affected by these levies.

Maharaj said he has received a complaint from a businessman after he was charged $700 in bank fees to release a duplicate bank draft. 'This businessman drew up the bank draft and paid the bank charges, however he lost it and went back to the bank for a duplicate copy and was charged $700 for it,' he revealed.

'In past years businesses were complaining about the high electricity and water bills adding to the cost of business however at present they are complaining about the high bank charges. The Consumer Council is very concerned with this issue especially when we consider the poor people who have smaller accounts at banks.'

He added that people depositing less than $50 were being charged about $2 for the deposit, which was unnecessary and expensive for people in low income brackets. Maharaj added that banks should facilitate banking for poor people so that they are able to save money rather than losing what little they have on bank charges.

'It is high time a banking ombudsman was appointed to look after the interest of the people and monitor the bank fees and levies charged by banks in the country,' he stressed.

Recently, he said, banking corporations declared huge profits in the Pacific region however this margin was not achieved in their own countries. Maharaj stressed that the huge profits made by banks in the Pacific region should not be used to subsidise the branches in their parent countries adding that with such large profits the bank fees should be reduced.

He added that there should be no fees charged to the people keeping small accounts at the banks stressing that the Consumer Council will be looking into this matter."

Read here another complaint against banks that is raging in the United Kingdom.

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