Yahneake Sterling, Staff Reporter
Effective November 1, customers paying their utility bills at National Commercial Bank (NCB), will have to pay a fee to do so.
A notice in The Sunday Gleaner of October 15 stated that the service, which for many years has been free, will attract a fee of $55.
This is $20 more than the charge which the use of Bill Express attracts and $25 more than Paymaster's service charge.
NCB has said that the announced service charge will not affect customers who use NCB Tele-Midas, NCB e-link and holders of Gold Club Customer Accounts.
Contacted yesterday, an NCB representative said, "The fact that payment agencies have started charging fees for their bill payment services has resulted in an increase in the number of persons using our branches to pay their utility bills. This has caused delays for our customers and has been a strain on the resources in the branches."
Earlier this year, bill payment agencies began charging customers for the service which led to an outcry from many Jamaicans who felt the move was unfair.
Figure on par
Asked why a charge of $55, the spokesperson said that the figure was on par with costs associated with similar transactions done at the bank.
Meanwhile, J. Paul Morgan, director general of the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR), has voiced concerns about the way the situation is "mushrooming."
"We want to feverishly, with all the utility companies, see what the impact is, what other arrangements can be made to ensure that their customers are not particularly disadvantaged," he said. He, however, reiterated that the OUR has no jurisdiction over bill payment agencies.
Meetings with the companies, he said, fell through a week ago, but he hopes to have another meeting by the end of next week.
The OUR head added that the regulatory body now understands that another commercial bank is contemplating charging a transaction fee as well.
In an interview with The Gleaner/Power 106 News, Dolsie Allen, chief executive officer of the Consumer Affairs Commission, said the commission was concerned about the new charges outlined by NCB.
However, her advice was that consumers utilise other facilities that do not attract a cost.