• But customers appear disconnected
By Emeka Anaeto
There are indications that some banks may have started complying with the recent downward review of charges ordered by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, if their claims are anything to go by. But some bank customers appear to be ignorant of the new policy as they still complain about high charges.
Vanguard MoneyDigest spoke to some customer care officers in some commercial banks and they claimed that they have not had any issue with their customers over charges in the past one month.
According to a customer care officer in a branch of Guaranty Trust Bank Plc in Lagos, ‘‘no complaints have been lodged since this year relating to excess charges. We have other complaints but not on excess charges.’’
On the specific complaints received so far she said: ‘‘they are generally related to non-dispense or crediting of account after ATM or mobile banking transfers, among other complaints.’’
She decline to give details of what has been the customers’ complaint profile before last month claiming she doesn’t have the details.
Another customer care officer at First Bank Limited, also in Victoria Island Lagos, claimed that the bank was implementing the new charges since this year, but she added that her branch hardly receives complaints on ATM charges except dispense errors.
However, she also stated: ‘‘I suspect that most customers are not yet aware of the reduction since it is about retail customers. So it is possible some banks are still charging the old rate without recording any complaint.’’
Her position was buttressed by a customer, Mr Godwin Elejo, just outside the bank’s banking hall who told Vanguard MoneyDigest that he didn’t know how much the bank was supposed to charge for the transactions.
According to him, ‘‘those small small money they collect from people I take them as their way of making money from their customers and I have not bordered to challenge them.’’
Asked why he has not challenged them, he said since he was not the only one and other people have complaint without any solution he has decided to ignore them for now.
Meanwhile, Prof. Sherifdeen Tella, a Senior Economist at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun, has called on the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to enforce its new guidelines on ATM/electronic transfer charges. Tella also told News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos that appropriate enlightenment campaign should be carried out to inform bank customers of their rights.
The don noted that the development was a positive one as some commercial banks were in the habit of charging N65 even at a single transaction. According to him, the previous charges by banks have discouraged many customers from opening a current account or using the ATMs of other Banks.
CBN, two weeks ago, released a new guidelines on charges. The guideline reviewed downward electronic transfer and ATM charges as well as card maintenance fees.
According to CBN, customers will now pay N10 for electronic transfers below N5,000, and N25 for electronic transfer between N5,000 and N50,000. Only electronic transfer above N50,000 will attract N50 charge. Previously, bank customers pay N50 charge for electronic transfers below N500,000. The guide also slashed charges for cash withdrawal via Other bank’s ATM to “maximum of N35 after the third withdrawal within the same month” from “N65 after the third withdrawal within the same month”. The CBN also removed Card Maintenance Fee (CAMF) on all cards linked to current accounts, a maximum of one Naira per mille for customer induced debit transactions to third parties and transfers or lodgements to the customers’ account in other banks on current accounts only.
Commenting on the new charges, Director, Corporate Communications, CBN, Isaac Okorafor explained that the current NIP charges apply to use of Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD), purchase with cash-back will attract a charge of N100 per N20,000 subject to cumulative N60,000 daily withdrawal. Also, for cards linked to savings account, a maintenance fee has been reduced to a maximum of N50 per quarter from N50 per month amounting to only N200 per annum instead of N600.
Furthermore, he hinted that there will be no more charges for reactivation or closure of accounts such as savings, current and domiciliary accounts while status enquiry at the request of the customer (like confirmation letter, letter of non-indebtedness and reference letter) will now attract a fee of N500 per request.
To guard against excess, unapproved or arbitrary charges by banks and other financial institutions, the new guideline stipulates a penalty of N2,000,000 per infraction or as may be determined by the CBN from time to time for financial institutions that breach any provision of the guide. The Guideline also emphasized that failure by any bank to comply with CBN’s directive in respect of any infraction shall attract a further penalty of N2,000,000 daily until the directive is complied with or as may be determined by the CBN from time to time. Consequently, the CBN directed banks to log every complaint received from their customers into the Consumer Complaints Management System (CCMS) in addition to generating a unique reference code for each complaint lodged, which must be given to the customer. Failure to log and provide the code to the customer, it added, amounts to a breach and is sanctionable with a penalty of N1,000,000 per breach. The charges prescribed in the Guide were arrived at after extensive consultations with stakeholders and is expected to enhance flexibility, transparency and competition in the Nigerian banking industry. This Guide, which replaces the Guide to Charges by Banks and Other Financial Institutions issued in 2017, took effect from January 1, 2020, and maybe reviewed from time to time to reflect changes in the business environment.
The CBN, therefore, urged financial services providers and their customers alike to acquaint themselves with the provisions of the Guide and be properly guided accordingly.
Meanwhile Banks customers on commended the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for its move to slash various bank charges.
A bank customer, Mr. James Onumah told NAN that the CBN’s directive was a New Year gift to bank customers. Onumah said most Nigerian banks were still characterised with inefficiency, yet they charge customers for services not provided. He said that the withdrawal charge of N65 after three withdrawals in other banks in a month was exploitative.
Mrs. Hadiza Maikarfi said the announcement was a piece of cheering news for her at the weekend. Maikarfi said various bank charges, before the reduction, were too high for customers like her to bear. She urged the apex bank to still review the charges downward. According to her, these charges can discourage people from getting involved in financial services, thereby affecting financial inclusion that is being promoted by the CBN.
Sani Nura, another bank customer, urged CBN to supervise banks to ensure the directive was implemented fully. Nura added that the bank’s charges reduction by the apex bank was timely due to the current hardship being experienced by the citizens.
Funke Akin told NAN that she had been celebrating over the reduction as announced by CBN. Akin said she was particularly happy over the removal of card maintenance charges, adding that she never understood the essence of such charges.