Bahamas consumer agency wants bank fees regulated
The Bahamas Consumer Protection Commission (CPC) says it has conducted a consumer banking survey to gauge public opinion and perception on the services provided by local clearing banks, and the level of fees associated with the provision of those services.
The findings will guide recommen-dations on whether the government should regulate banking fees.
"We want the central bank, its board and management to take a look at the issue and see if bank fees should be regulated, and whether all increases and decreases should be approved or declined by the central bank," said CPC Chairman Jerome Gomez.
"We would like to get a public discussion going to clarify if the banking service determining process is broken and needs to be repaired," he said.
Gomez told reporters that the 598 persons had responded to the survey, was well short of the original goal of 1,000 respondents. According to the survey results, on the question as to whether respondents think there is consumer protection in The Bahamas for retail bank customers, 83 per cent of the respondents said no.
On the fundamental question of whether respondents thought that the service fees, or charges, associated with their accounts were appropriate for the services received, 72 per cent said no.
And, with respect to the number of fees levied by the banks, 82.6 per cent said there were too many fees.
Gomez said the CPC aims to determine whether the banking fee structure is "running amok", while charging that the banks are trying to improve their business through fee increases, as opposed to creating new and innovative banking products for their customers.
He said the next step for the CPC is to examine the fees charged in the foreign banks' home countries and see how they match up to fees in The Bahamas.
"We will also look at fees in the Caribbean region and see how they match up to those charged here in The Bahamas," the CPC chairman said, adding that the commissioner also wants the Perry Christie government to examine whether it is time to introduce competition through the granting of new banking licences.
Jamaica is currently debating legislation aimed at regulating bank fees, a move that the banks and the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica oppose.