In view of the public outcry against CBN's directive to increase approved bank charges with effect from May 1 2017, Consumer Advocacy Foundation of Nigeria CAFON is set to launch another consumer protest tagged #CloseOneMillionBankAccountsIn2017.
The aimed is to mobilse Nigerian consumers to resist what it described as “excessive charges’’ by Nigerian banks. The Consumer Advocacy NGO initiated the #NoBankingDay protest on March 1, 2016, to draw national attention to bank consumers' dissatisfaction with excessive and illegal bank charges.
CAFON Founding President, Ms Sola Salako, in a statement stated that some of the disputed and unpopular charges include: a 600% increase in Debit Card Maintenance Fee from N100 per annum to N50 per month; Excessive Account Maintenance Charges; Mandatory SMS service charged at N4/SMS as against actual cost of less than N1 for bulk SMS; N65 per ATM other bank withdrawal after 3 withdrawals.
“The banks have dubiously altered this to ensure consumers exceed the monthly 3 free withdrawals quickly by programming their ATM to dispense only N10,000 maximum per transaction for other bank's customers as against N40,000 maximum possible for their own customers’’, the statement added.
“A recent front page report in Vanguard stated that top ten banks raked in over N160bn from online transactions charges in 2016 alone! These excessive charges have been providing massive income for the banks from ancillary online platforms as against the core banking services, thus posing a significant threat to the success of CBN's own Cashless Policy initiative’’, Salako added.
She explained that the proposed #CloseOneMillionBankAccountsIn2017 consumer action is predicated on the need to drastically reduce the numbers of active or live bank accounts from which “these unreasonably excessive charges are regularly deducted’’.
According to the group, Nigerian banks are known to be deducting multiple charges from every account open in their books irrespective of whether there was any transaction done in the month or not; adding that ‘’even dormant accounts are levied with SMS alerts and VAT charges’’;
saying consumers have also complained that they are often charged for an unsolicited birthday greeting SMS by most banks.
"Since the CBN has refused to stop the alleged sector extortion via excessive charges, we advise consumers to close all non-essential bank accounts immediately. That way, we can minimize the available channels from which they make such stupendous income at the consumer's expense", Salako further explained.
“The proposed protest is simple, non-confrontation and an exercise of the consumer's right to choose. It is also pragmatic, frugal and can save consumers billions in excessive bank charges’’, she harped.
CAFON pointed out that most consumers operate more than one bank account, sometimes in multiple banks.
“All these bank accounts are subjected to multiple charges monthly even when they have not been active. We urge consumers to audit their numerous bank accounts, identify the most essential to their lifestyle, employment or business needs, keep those and initiate the process to close the non- essential accounts in their personal and business names immediately. Corporates must also do the same to minimize what they lose monthly to excessive bank charges’’, the group further urged consumers.
“If consumers take action immediately, we can prevent the charges for the month of May. All an account holder needs to do is write the Branch Manager a letter instructing the bank to close all non-essential accounts with immediate effect listing them by NUBAN numbers.
Make sure to take a copy of the letter to be stamped received with date and give the account Name, Number and Bank where your balance in the closed accounts should be transferred. Once this is completed, the banks have no right to charge that account again from date of receipt of your letter’’.
To ensure that the campaign is successful, CAFON promises to provide online support materials to assist consumers in enforcing their rights. ‘’We shall also provide a link for consumers to list their closed accounts as we countdown to our one million closed bank accounts target by Dec 31 2017. We expect all aggrieved consumers to join the protest and mobilize others to take action too. Collectively we can force a reduction of these obscene profiteering in the name of multiple add-on bank charges. Enough is Enough’’.