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ECCB has no power to regulate bank charges

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The Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) has advised that it does not have the powers to regulate commercial banks’ fees and charges, but encouraged commercial banks to explain to their customers and the public at large, their rationale for the increases in fees and charges.

In a release issued yesterday, the St Kitts based Bank said it is concerned about the increase in commercial banks’ fees and charges across the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU) and the effects on depositors.{{more}}

“The ECCB wishes to advise that it does not have the powers to regulate commercial banks’ fees and charges. As a consequence, individual banks determine their fees and charges,” the release said.

Last week, scores of depositers converged upon the local branch of RBTT Bank Caribbean Ltd, many with the intention of withdrawing their money from the bank. The rush on the financial institution came after the publication in a local newspaper on May 13 that a fee of $25 a month would be charged by the bank on saving accounts, with $12.50 being withdrawn from accounts held by senior citizens.

The release from the ECCB also advised that Article 34 of the ECCB Agreement permits the ECCB to regulate the minimum savings rate, that is, the minimum interest rate paid on savings deposits.

“The issue of bank fees and charges has been discussed by the Monetary Council which is the highest decision-making body of the ECCB. The Monetary Council comprises the eight Ministers with responsibility for Finance in the ECCB member countries. At its 83rd meeting held on 6 November 2015, the Monetary Council approved several recommendations related to bank fees and charges. These included:

1. Establishing an Office of the Ombudsman for Financial Services to mediate on behalf of customers with complaints and address other dispute resolution matters.

2. Establishing a Working Group to review commercial banks’ fees and charges and to report its findings and recommendations to the Monetary Council. This review will include the compilation of data from the ECCU and other jurisdictions within CARICOM.

3. Encouraging the ECCU Bankers Association to use moral suasion to establish a defined range of fees for various products and services which would be published for public information. “

The release also said: “Commercial banks operating within the ECCU are encouraged to explain to their customers and the public at large, their rationale for the increases in fees and charges.

“The ECCB encourages customers to remain calm, carefully consider their banking options and determine what services best meet their needs at this time.”

RBC Royal Bank, in a release issued May 20 from its headquarters in Trinidad and Tobago, said it “recognizes that any change in pricing or fees is a sensitive topic for clients and we work hard to keep costs down. On an annual basis, we review our products and services and sometimes adjust the pricing to reflect the cost of doing business.

We believe we continue to deliver good value and competitive pricing and we encourage our clients to call us or visit their branch to meet with their financial advisor to ensure they have the banking options and advice that best meet their needs.”

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