On Friday, November 1, I visited the National Commercial Bank (NCB) in New Kingston to encash a cheque and was told I had to pay $128.15, inclusive of GCT, to have this done. I am not an account holder at NCB, neither did the payer grant me the option of having the cheque lodged to my account. I was also not aware of this policy until I arrived at the teller.
I enquired what were my options, to which the teller replied that I could lodge the cheque. I stated that I had no account there and neither was I interested in opening one, so I asked to speak to a manager. I was directed to the operations manager's office.
I had asked the question of what were my options because, some time ago, I had a similar experience at another bank, and when I made the point that I do not have an account there, the encashment fee was waived. That, to me, was a fair and reasonable option, though these bank charges need to be revisited. NCB, however, does not give you that option. You are simply forced to pay a cheque encashment fee, full stop. This is just plain wrong!
Now, having voiced my objections to a compulsory fee of $128.15, the operations manager insisted that I had to pay the charge or lodge the cheque to a bank where I had an account. Now imagine spending over 20 minutes in a bank and being told to head to another to lodge the cheque, where the funds would not be immediately available.
Who governs the financial institutions to ensure that wanton, frivolous charges are not forced upon customers? Are the banks a law unto themselves?
It is my belief that banks should not be allowed to charge customers to encash a cheque but, if they must, there should be regulations that govern such an approach. This is tantamount to dictatorship.
The Government needs to step in and stop what I consider this out-of-control imposition of fees to customers of the bank. I find this type of policy to be simply highway robbery. Based on how frequent charges are being forced upon customers, perhaps sooner more than later customers will be forced to pay a fee for simply entering the bank!
What is the Government going to do to stop this unreasonable behaviour by these greedy banks? They are already charging countless service charges. Why another?
Policies must be reasonable, fair and should not remind you of an Anancy story.
It is my fervent belief that there should be a policy within the Government framework that makes it compulsory for the watchdog of these financial institutions to be engaged in consultations before any such decision.
I propose, too, that the public must be informed, via all media channels, of all these service fees from all financial institutions in order that members of the public can be privy to such fees at one glance for the purpose of comparing, so we can make informed decisions.
I conclude by imploring members of the public to do your due diligence before doing any business. Look at your options. As it relates to a cheque being made payable, if you know beforehand, enquire if the cheque could be made payable to the financial institution to which you have an account, but what then if the payer is unable to facilitate this request? It leaves you no option but to pay to get your money.
I really do believe this urgently requires intervention and will continue to pray it gets it.