by Eulana Weekes
St.Kitts and Nevis (WINN): Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB), Timothy N.J Antoine and Chief Director of Policy Tracy Polius have outlined the institution’s plans to address the increase in fees and charges imposed by commercial banks.
During a recent Country Outreach Mission to St.Lucia, Polius explained the ECCB’s plan to implement legislation to address the matter.
“What we hope to achieve is an independent piece of legislation that addresses the conduct of financial institutions, not only commercial banks but other financial institutions within the financial space that allows for some level of consumer protection. It would allow for an ability to assess whether fees and charges are appropriate or consistent with the services that are being provided and all of that. So, that will be an addition to the suite of legislation that we currently have in the financial sector.”
According to Polius, there will be a conduct authority represented by a financial ombudsman who will be providing support in the member countries.
Governor Antoine explained that banks are regulated under the Banking Act, adding that the ECCB can only act within the parameters of the law.
“Under the Banking Act, is how the banks are regulated. The Eastern Caribbean Central Bank does not regulate fees and charges. The law does not provide for that. It’s not in the law, so we cannot implement something that is not in the law.I want to start with that. That is what you call banking conduct; the relationship between financial institutions (banks) and their customers. In law, the ECCB is tasked with regulating banks in terms of financial stability and the most important thing that we have to do for you is making sure that depositors funds are safe, that’s what the focus of our regulations is about,”said Antoine.
He explained, “When a financial institution wants to address their fees and charges the only thing the law allows us to do is ask them to submit the fees, ask them why and ask them whether they have given sufficient notice; adequate notice means 30 days to their customers before they break the fees in. We cannot say, “No you can’t charge it. We can’t even say yes.”All we have is a monetary role and a disclosure or transparency role. We have to insist that they show evidence that they have published and given notice. That’s what the law gives us.”
Antoine said the banking conduct is an important issue, sharing that the ECCB intends to propose the legislation to member governments, so that they too can help address the matter.