MP wants banks to justify high fees
Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
IF SOUTH St Catherine Member of Parliament (MP) Fitz Jackson had his way, the CEOs of Jamaica's banks would be hauled before a parliamentary committee to justify the charges being heaped on to the backs of customers.
"If they (charges) are being imposed on members of the public, they must be justified to the members of the public," Jackson said.
The MP was closing the debate on a motion he opened in Parliament for the Economy and Production Committee to consider bank fees being charged.
Following the passage of the resolution in the House yesterday, the Bank of Jamaica has 60 days to supply the committee with a report on bank fees as at October 31. The committee will have 45 days to consider the report.
Yesterday, Jackson said high bank fees were threatening the existence of small and micro businesses and that they were a hindrance to economic growth.
The government backbencher said an examination of bank fees revealed that the institutions have been relying on increased fees to turn profits.
"They are holding a captive market and just impose these increases with virtual impunity," Jackson said.
He cited several examples of persons being ambushed by bank charges.
Jackson said one "70-odd-year-old" St Thomas woman told him she was surprised that bank charges had eaten into money she had deposited for her funeral.
"From you walk into the bank, they charge you to come in," Jackson fumed.
BETTER APPROACH NEEDED
Karl Samuda, the opposition spokesman on industry, warned of potentially dire implications if the signal is sent that the Parliament is seeking to exercise control over banks. He argued that a better approach should be the use of the Consumer Affairs Commission to publish bank charges thus empowering consumers with information.
"Within the context of a free-market enterprise, you don't have the leverage that you think you have. You legislate and control fees in the banking sector and the consequences will be grave. The implications will be too frightening to pursue," Samuda said.