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Business

Banks: 'We proposed code first'

BY SHAMILLE SCOTT Business reporter

Wednesday, September 26, 2012    

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JAMAICA'S Bankers have hit back at the Consumer Affairs Commission, which claimed earlier this week that the they were dragging their heels on a new code of conduct.

On the contrary, said the Jamaica Bankers Association (JBA), it is not only open to a banking code, but was

first to submit a draft to the central bank.

"When we were contacted by the Consumer Affairs Commission last year to adopt the code that they recommended we advised them of the association's efforts in developing our own code which predated their request,"

said Bruce Bowen, the association's president.

The JBA said its regulator, the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ), has informed the commission of the imminence of the Omnibus Code which would incorporate mandatory provisions.

"The JBA's intention has never been to shun the CAC,"

Bowen said.

The central bank has indicated that submissions made by the association as well as the commission were considered in the Enforceable Bankers' Code of Conduct, which will be incorporated in the proposed Omnibus Bill being developed by the BOJ.

The BOJ is expected to take into consideration provisions from both the JBA's voluntary code of banking practice and the CAC's code, as well as what is done in other countries.

Candice Ramessar, project

co-ordinator of Consumers International, told the Jamaica Observer's Monday Exchange she was perturbed by the JBA's almost "non-involvement or refusal to interact with the representatives of the consumers in Jamaica."

The advocates in this case were the Consumer Affairs Commission and the National Consumers League.

A voluntary code that seeks compromise when consumers and their banks fall out is yet to be instituted in Jamaica.

A code of that nature can guide the expectations of customers about their rights and responsibilities, Bowen said.

The association said it put time and resources into developing a code before it was made aware of the CAC's venture and had discussions with the BOJ on the banking policy.

Trinidad and Tobago has enforced a code and Scotiabank in Canada also has a banking policy, much like the one that is being proposed by the CAC for Jamaica.

Before the code becomes a part of the framework of Jamaica's financial services, consultation is needed.

In an attempt to not have its efforts duplicated, Bowen said the JBA advised the CAC that the group wished to continue dialogue with the BOJ.

The membership of the JBA say they will comply with the Omnibus Code when it is brought into effect.

The code drafted by the CAC sets standards for non-discriminatory access; service provision; product information, terms and conditions; the format of contracts; variation in fees and charges; credit information and provides for a cooling off period after customers sign on the dotted line.

It asks that the banking sector commit to a three-year review of the Code.

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