THE BURDEN of customers of Nigeria’s commercial banks and financial institutions recovering unhealthy overcharges and unauthorized deductions from their accounts may ease out, if CBN enforces its directive to banks to settle customers’ complaints within two weeks.  CBN said it has issued a circular on all legitimate bank charges.  The circular can be found on its website.

CBN’s Head of Complaints Management Division, Tajudeen Ahmed, Tuesday, in Abuja, said the directive would ensure banks customers get redress on issues of excess charges or unauthorized withdrawals.  Ahmed said CBN intends to eradicate “short payment of interests” and end the “culture of excess and arbitrary charges”.

Any charge outside what is contained in the circular, according to CBN, is unauthorized. Ahmed said the consumer protection department had issued guidelines dated August 16, 2011, directing all banks and financial institutions to resolve all customer complaints within two weeks of receipt of such complaints.

NIGERIAN CURRENCY in the hands of a Dealer.

On receipt of any complaint, and before the expiration of two weeks, the bank or financial institution is expected to engage the customer on a continuous update on his or her complaint status. If not resolved within the deadline, the customer should draw the attention of Central Bank of Nigeria to the complaint.

Ahmed said customers with unresolved complaints should contact the Director, Consumer Protection Department via email: cbd@cbn.gov.ng. Such complaint should be in writing. Dissatisfied customers can also visit any Branch of CBN nearest to them to seek redress.

Ahmed said CBN continually engages the banks to ensure ethical standards; and that conducts and practices are fair to customers in order to “stimulate peoples’ confidence in the banking system”. Non-adherence to CBN’s directive would attract regulatory sanctions.

On set limit on ATM withdrawals, which prompts customers to make several withdrawals in the event of large cash withdrawals, Ahmed faulted it.  He said:  “I have also observed and noted this.  Don’t forget that at the beginning, it wasn’t like this.  Overtime, we started having this problem”.

ATM MACHINE in a Nigerian location.

“One of the reasons is that the quantum of N500 denomination is much more than that of N1,000 denomination. When we approached the banks about these problems, they said that the machines become easily faulty when it is set to dispense up to N30, 000 to N40, 000 units”.

Ahmed said CBN has directed that machines that allow payment up to N30,000 to N50,000 should be installed, and this is ongoing. The Banking and Payment Department of CBN is in charge.

Hadija Kasim, Head, Consumer Protection Division, said customers should imbibe the culture of CBN’s cashless policy and avoid some of the issues arising from banking transactions. She said the public had various methods of making payments without carrying cash.   “Let’s not forget that ATM cards can also be used on Point of Sale (POS) terminals”.

Her words:  “We are encouraging people that unless it is absolutely necessary, they should reduce the carriage of cash. Cashless transactions are more convenient, safer and you will avoid the problem of overcharges”. Kasim advised banks consumers to use bank transfer channels for transactions in cases where sellers do not have POS.