Support Village Voice News With a Donation of Your Choice.
– says other banking institutions infringing on consumer rights
– calls on BoG Governor to use his powers to deter
Former Finance Minister, Winston Jordan has called out the Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry (GBTI) for hiking its transaction charges by 43% without public notice.
In letter to the editor on Tuesday, Jordan ripped the “multi-billion-dollar profits” Bank for what he described as its “sleight of hand” during a time when many Guyanese are financially challenged due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jordan explained that as part of its adherence to the COVID-19 relief measures, GBTI had removed its ATM transaction fee of $35 until July 31, 2020. The Bank had also increased the maximum daily amount to withdraw from $100,000 to $150,000 while its maximum withdrawal per transaction remained at $30,000.
However, Jordan revealed: “On Monday, August 24, 2020, I had cause to visit the ATM. I was astonished to find out that while GBTI had retained the $30,000 and $150,000, respectively, it had increased the transaction fee by a whopping 43 percent to $50. So that what we, the customers, thought was a good show of altruism on the Bank’s part, was really a sleight of hand.”
He said that it appears that though the Bank consistently declares multi-billion-dollar profits and would have lost only a small percentage of profit compared, during the 3-month period of “no fees”, it saw the need for a “grotesque increase” in transaction fee.
Not only does the former Finance Minister consider this unacceptable, but he said that there are many other ways in which banking institutions in Guyana continue to rid hardworking Guyanese of their monies.
“Editor, can you imagine a low-income person having to pay $50 on withdrawing $500? In this COVID-19 period? We must remember, too, that the increase was sprung upon the public like a thief in the night, with no notification. This seems to be a pattern in the banking institutions, where it now seems normal to incur a cost for depositing money (including your salary), for withdrawing money, for investing in your future (dormant accounts containing your hard-earned savings could be subject to periodic ‘no transaction’ penalties), for requesting a statement of your account, among several other reasons for instituting fees and penalties,” he pointed out.
He called on GBTI to revert to the $35 per ATM withdrawal and to increase the maximum per transaction to $40,000 while retaining the maximum daily withdrawal of $150,000.
Not long out of office and privy to the existing needs within Guyana’s financial sector, Jordan also called on the Governor of the Bank of Guyana to increase his oversight of these institutions and, in the absence of updated legislation, to use his powers to issue “Banking Circulars” to ensure that the actions of the banks do not lead to unintended consequences such as disintermediation.
The former Finance Minister also urged that the Government develop Consumer Rights legislation which would empower consumers. He said that until such is established, consumers will continue to be at the mercy of commercial banks and other financial and quasi-financial institutions. This is not the first time that Jordan has lobbied for stronger consumer laws. He did so, most recently, in March 2020 when he pointed out that the banking sector, the hire purchase system, and credit card sector as areas where consumers in Guyana are not sufficiently, legally protected.