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CUSTOMERS ACCUSE BANKS OF UNILATERAL APPLICATION OF CHARGES

By NBF News
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By Our Reporters
…As CBN bans charges on inter-account transactions, returned cheques

Customers have accused banks of unilaterally applying charges on their accounts contrary to the directive of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

Meanwhile, the apex bank, in the recently released exposure draft on the Revised Guide to Bank Charges, has banned banks from charging customers for transactions between account with same ownership and in the same bank. It also banned charging of Commission on Turnover (CoT) on returned cheques, as well as charges for account re-activation and re-opening.

Vanguard investigations revealed that most banks introduce new charges and apply them without notifying their customers or seeking their consent.

Bank customers confirmed this to Vanguard and expressed their dissatisfaction. 'They just charge me without explanation. I am fed up with them', said Mrs Adeoti Damilola, an account holder with a bank with headquarters on Akin Adesola Street, Victoria Island.

'For instance, I am billed N200 on the counter charges and N5 per ATM usage. I am also charged on SMS alert messages. Some of these services are free in other banks. I feel bad because I put my money in the bank for them to save, not for them to use for their own purpose. I save money for them to be giving me interest, meanwhile, they deduct my money at will,' she said.

'I am not pleased with their charges,' said Kayode, an account holder with a bank with headquarters on Danmole Street, Victoria Island. 'Most of their charges are nothing to write home about. Sometimes, they over-charge me. Not quite long ago, I was double charged/debited on a single transaction. Honestly, I am not okay with the system and something should be done fast. It will be good if the CBN intervenes on the issue,' he stated.

Two other customers of the same bank, Chieji Kingsley and Okoye Justina, condemned the charges of the bank as outrageous, saying that they were not pre-informed before charges were deducted from their account. 'The bank's billing rate is outrageous. I wish they will stop billing us and allow us enjoy saving our money with them,' Kingsley said.

'There are many instances where they deduct little money from my account without due notification. I feel bad especially when I see that these charges are uncalled for. For instance, recently, I noticed that some money has been deducted from my account without my notification,' Justina added.

Kolawole, customer of a bank with headquarters on Ajose Adeogun Street, Victoria Island, said: 'Initially, I was not really concerned about the rate they charged. But what I have discovered is that every month, I always receive alert that N100 or N50 is being deducted from my account and they will notify me that it is from the headquarters.

'I also observe that each time money is paid into my account; it will reduce instead of increasing. Though I cannot say the specific amount, sometimes I feel upset because one does not expect such things. I have asked them severally but what they say is that it is from the headquarters.'

Lamido Sanusi, CBN governor
Mrs. Ugonma Anyanwu also confirmed that her bank does not notify her before applying charges. It is a polite way of stealing,' she said.

Mr. Jay Johnson narrated a recent experience on unilateral deductions of charges from his account. He said: 'There was a time money was paid into my account. I noticed deduction of N200 and when I asked, the bank told me it was for alert. Another time, I was having N700 left in my account, I was sent N10, 000 later. But to my surprise, I saw alert of N10, 300. Meaning the bank had withdrawn N400 without any reason. And just recently, my balance was N600, when I received a new alert, I discovered my balance was N300.'

Amusa Risikatu, an account holder with a bank with headquarters on Marina, Lagos Island, said she is charged any time she uses her cheque.  'I feel bad whenever I notice that money has been deducted from my account. I have complained severally but to no avail'.

Another customer of the bank, Anjorin Taiwo Mayowa, said: 'For no reason, they deduct money every month. I feel bad because of the way they deduct the money without notice since I was not pre-informed about the terms and conditions of the transaction,' he said.

Vanguard investigations also revealed that most of the charges unilaterally introduced by banks are invented by the banks and are not captured by the apex bank's Guide to Bank charges. These include, Salary Handling fee, Account Maintenance fee, inter-branch and transaction fee.

Deputy Director, Financial System Stability, CBN, Markus Zacharia, however, maintained that: 'Banks are required to apprise customers of charges before they are implemented.'

Fielding questions from journalists at the 308th Bankers' Committee meeting in Abuja earlier this month, he said the exposure draft on the Revised Guide to Bank Charges released by the apex bank, is a review of the mandate between the banks and the customers on what they are supposed to be charged and when that contract is made, there is the need to be bound by such charges.'

'The CBN feels that this new guideline would enable bank customers to know ahead what they are going to be charged to avoid any extra or unnecessary charges that are not in the contract that they entered into with the financial institutions.'

Among other things, the new Guide, according to the CBN, 'is to enhance flexibility, transparency, and competition in the guided deregulated Nigerian economy. 'Where a charge is stipulated as 'negotiable', banks are required to appropriately draw the attention of their customers to it  upon which the two parties should mutually agree on the applicable charge.

Although the Guide provides for charges on various products and services of banks, it is not exhaustive. Banks are mandated to present any new product, services and charge(s) not covered by this Guide to the Central Bank for prior approval,' said the CBN.

Under the new guide, the CBN banned banks from charging custormers for; transactions between account with same name in the same bank; Savings Domiciliary Account; Returned cheques; foreign exchange purchases from customers; Cash lodgement into domiciliary account.

The Guide also reduced the maximum charge for CoT to N3 per mile (N1000) from N5 per mile. It also makes CoT charge negotiable between the bank and the customer. The CBN also pegged maximum charge of N5 for SMS alert per transaction.

Under the new Guide, banks can charge up to N200 for cheque leaf obtained on the counter. It also  allow banks to charge customers, who want to borrow,  for credit reference reports obtained from credit bureaus, but banks are to bear the cost of quarterly monitoring of credit by credit bureau.