Wpid Banking Hall
Most Customers Are In Agony Over The High Cost Of Transaction Rates

Most Customers are in agony over the high cost of transaction rates and other charges inflicted by some Nigerian banks.
Most customers have continued to bemoan the seemingly ascending transaction rates charged by some individual Banks in the country. To the utter dismay of customers who feel fleeced off their hard earned money, there isn?t any form of reasonable explanations for the banks? increased charges.
Customers indict the banks, because they feel that the services they get are not usually commensurate with the charges they are forced to pay. Customers say that the banks increasingly arbitrary charges for transactions may necessarily not be justifiable.
According to investigations by our correspondent, some of these charges differ from bank to bank. Key among these charges, include maintenance charges, cost of transactions charges on Automated Teller Machine cards, SMS alert, over-the-counter charges and withholding tax, among others.
A cross sampling of customers reflect their frustration.
Mr. Ndukwe Udochukwu, a customer of three banks namely Access Bank, Guaranty Trust Bank and Zenith Bank says, ?It is highly pathetic how these banks fleece customers of their monies without reason.  Most of the time, you only get to know some of these things after they have been deducted from your account. Sometimes, these amounts may seem too little for you to complain about, but it is only when you compile them maybe at the end of the month that you realise that the amount is actually on the high side.?
?For instance, last month alone, I received three different alerts in the first week that N255, N575 and N425 were deducted from my account. I did not carry out any transactions on my account during that week, and I was therefore amazed at the withdrawals, but since I wasn?t in town and couldn?t reach my account officer, I decided to hold my peace.?
He adds, ?By the time I return to Lagos next week, I am going to go to my branch and make so much noise, until they explain to me why almost N2000 was deducted from my account when I didn?t carry out any transaction during that period.?
For Abimbola Aladejuyigbe who does regular transactions with one of the major banks, what occurs in most Nigerian banks could be said to be ?open eye fraud?. He narrated his ordeal to our correspondent in bitterness. He says after withdrawing some money from his account to settle some domestic bills last month, his balance should have stood at about N153, 000, but what he saw was a different figure.
He says, ?After that, I had a family emergency two weeks ago, and I needed to withdraw about N150,000. I felt that since I have a current account I could safely withdraw the N150, 000 I needed. But to my surprise, after presenting my cheque to the bank, I was informed that I only had N145,000 in my account, you can imagine the shock.
?By the time I demanded an explanation from the customer service people, I was told that the bank had withdrawn various charges to the tune of N8000 from my account, and this was even reflected in my statement of account. Up till now, I still do not understand why that N8,000 was taken away from me.?
A business man, Mr. Samuel Agwu, who banks with UBA says that because of such arbitrary charges, he closed his current account with one of the banks in March 2013.
?The rate of deductions was becoming alarming, I got alerts from my bank every other day of one deduction or the other, and I was watching helplessly, and each time I asked for an explanation, I was given one story or the other?, he says.
He explains, ?When it became too much for me to handle, I just did the next best thing, which was to close my current account, and now, I run two savings accounts. Although there are still charges on these savings accounts, I think it?s a bit better than the charges in current accounts.?
Agwu further revealed, ?It was very difficult for me, especially when some of my customers insist on paying for goods using cheques, but I have been able to discover some banks that run some special savings accounts like current accounts, and this has helped to reduce the difficulties.?
He notes that it is important for bank regulators and concerned authorities ensure that banks are kept in line, ?so that they would not keep withdrawing our money anyhow, just because they have access to our accounts.?
Another customer, Mrs. Modinat Matanmi, who operates a current account in a leading commercial bank, says that customer services had dropped in all the banks, compared to when the competition was stiff among banks.
She says, ?I have noticed that my bank keeps increasing its charges and introducing arbitrary charges. Sometimes, I even notice little changes in my account balance, but I just let it go sometimes, because the time and amount I might spend going to fight in the bank maybe more than the amount they collected arbitrarily.
?Also, I do not have an ATM card and yet, they charge me monthly for card maintenance. It is rather unfortunate, and I pray that there would be serious checks and balances to ensure that customers do not keep losing their money; we work so hard to make the little money we have.
?Even when I try to borrow funds for my business, I get some high rates of between 17 per cent and 20 per cent, and this is really high, especially for small businesses like ours, and yet government would everyday say that they are trying to encourage the growth of small businesses in this country, We are not seeing this at all.
For Matanmi, the Central Bank of Nigeria and other interested parties should look into how to ensure a kind of uniform amount across all banks to ensure that customers are not cheated off their funds.
Some customers trace the high levies imposed on them by these banks to the removal of ATM charges by the Central Bank and some other policies of the apex bank as the root cause of the spurious charges.
To Ogechi Madu, the removal of the ATM charges by the CBN gave rise to the increase in cost of transactions by most commercial banks. Many of these banks according to her needed to stay afloat as one of their major sources of generating income had been closed.
This led to the rise in hidden charges which have continued to increase ever since. Madu further stated that the action of the banks is fraudulent and it?s like ?robbing Peter to pay Paul?.
The Chief Executive Officer, Sterling Bank Plc, Mr. Yemi Adeola, in a swift reaction to the complaints of many customers says that high interest rates and charges on loans are usually based on the risks involved.
?We cannot adopt a uniform standard on interest rates, it depends on the risk they are taking. Some people are getting interest rates on loan of 15, 12, 11 and 10 per cent. Where the business is very risky, interest rate is as high as 16 and 17 per cent,? he says.
According to him, days when interest rates were as high as 30 per cent are over as banks? interest rates are now at 20 per cent and below.
Also, the CBN, in a circular, has announced the commencement of the revision of charges in the banking industry in order to align its tariff regime with current economic realities.
?The review is intended to align the tariff regime in the banking industry with present economic realities and offer a platform for standard application of charges on different types of banking products and services.?
The circular states that an important component of the exercise is the development of a minimum disclosure requirement that would stipulate the information that banks are required to disclose to all customers before the consummation of every credit transaction.
A banker with one of the leading banks who pleaded anonymity said that the apex bank had handed down to the banks a standard for charging customers. He advised that many customers get accustomed to these new charges and report defaulting banks.
The CBN recently set up the Consumer Protection Department, where customers are allowed to lodge complains.
?Such complains are not taken lightly by the Central Bank. Such issues would be thoroughly investigated and banks involved would be penalised,? A CBN official said.
?The regulator is not taking it lightly when banks are involved in arbitrary charges on their customers. There is an exposure draft now been reviewed and when it is finalized, it will be the standard for charging customers,? he said.

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