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Lawmaker urges Gov't toset up complaints authority

Published:Friday | May 23, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Edmond Campbell, Senior Staff Reporter

LAWMAKER MIKAEL Phillips wants the Government to consider setting up a complaints authority for members of the public who feel aggrieved by actions of deposit-taking institutions.

Deliberating on a private member's motion moved by Government Member of Parliament Fitz Jackson on the vexed issue of bank fees, Phillips said there was an urgent need for the establishment of a consumer protection body to receive complaints from consumers about banks.

"We in this House should make the recommendation to have a complaints authority," Phillips suggested Wednesday, during a meeting of the Economy and Production Committee of Parliament.

"I have a problem with the consumer going back to the bank to complain about the same bad service or issue relating to fees," Phillips added.

Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) Governor Brian Wynter, who was invited to Wednesday's committee meeting, explained that the proposed enforceable code of conduct which will apply to banks mandates that the licensee or the financial institutions should set up a consumer complaints mechanism. The institutions should also keep a record of complaints made by aggrieved consumers.

He said if the consumer is not satisfied with how the matter has been handled by the deposit-taking institution, an appeal can be made to the central bank.

Wynter told members of the committee that the central bank's intervention should not be construed as creating a consumer-protection capacity at the BOJ.

While conceding that the BOJ would hear consumer complaints in cases where the financial institutions fail to respond adequately, Wynter questioned whether the central bank is the right place to discharge that mandate.

Meanwhile, the BOJ governor reported that under the Omnibus Banking law, the supervisor or central bank may issue a code of conduct on consumer-related matters.

The code speaks to the obligation to provide customers with reasonable notice of fees and charges, terms and conditions and subsequent changes to these.

It will also provide for customers' access to their information at a reasonable cost and setting up effective mechanisms to address customer complaints.

The code encompasses reporting and record- keeping obligations in relation to customer complaints and resolutions within the times and formats specified by the supervisor.