Ministry of Trade urges banks to notify consumers before implementing fees

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The Ministry of Trade is issuing this alert to banks and other financial institutions and consumers regarding the need for consumers to be notified before being charged any fees.

Under the 1985 UN Resolution adopting Guidelines for Consumer Protection and the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas  (Cap 8. Article 184), the consumer has a right to information, education, and choice. It is critical for banks and other financial institutions to inform consumers of new or increased charges, explain these charges so consumers can develop a better understanding, and allow consumers to terminate the service if they do not agree with the fee before being charged.

Many consumers have made enquires with the Prices and Consumer Affairs Division after receiving new or increased bank charges without prior notification. After contacting their banks, consumers often received insufficient explanations regarding the charges.

We strongly recommend that banks and other financial institutions provide written notification of any pending new charges or increases in charges directly to a consumer at least 30 days before the charge is implemented. This would give the consumer time to seek information and make an informed decision on important financial matters.

Considering banking fees, consumers should keep the following tips in mind:

1.     Conduct research. Know the fees charged by the local banks and choose the one which best meets your needs.

2.     Know the services for which your bank charges a fee. Find out the services that can be transacted online or at the ATM without a fee.

  1. Keep a minimum balance. Maintain at least the minimum required balance in your account. This helps to avoid additional fees.
  1. Don’t overspend. Know your account balances and track your transactions to avoid overdraft fees.
  1. Download the App and sign up for email or text notifications to keep informed.

6.     Request additional information and seek answers from your bank for clarity.

As we celebrate 50 years of CARICOM on July 4th, we must keep at the forefront that the community is intended to integrate the economies and peoples within the region to promote trade and development. For this to be achieved, banks and other financial institutions must have functional cooperation with consumers and businesses.

For consumers, financial decisions are not just another transaction. Many times, these are life-changing choices filled with uncertainty. If financial institutions are treating consumer interactions like purchases, then it’s time to shift your attention from completing transactions to having real connections.

The Ministry hopes the banks and other financial institutions will see this as an opportunity to engage consumers and make adequate information available to them so they can acquire the knowledge and skill to be informed consumers, conscious of their rights and responsibilities.

The Ministry and Division stand ready to offer guidance to banks and consumers to ensure a more harmonious relationship between both parties.

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