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Foreign-owned entities treat J'can customers differently, says CAC

BY CONRAD HAMILTON Observer senior reporter hamiltonc@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, September 25, 2012    

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THE Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC) is taking serious issue with what it says is the failure of some foreign-owned commercial banks to offer Jamaicans the same customer service standards that they make available to customers in countries where these banks originate.

The CAC says the disparities cannot be allowed to continue, as customers in Jamaica and other Caribbean countries should benefit from the same standards that apply to customers in the European or North American operations of these banks.

Officials of the commission, who were guests at the Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange, believe more pressure should be placed on all local banks to accept a banking code that sets minimum standards governing their dealings with customers.

This has led the CAC and its consultants to intensify its campaign to get more Jamaicans, including advocacy groups to lobby local banks to change their stance on a proposed code of conduct

for banks.

Candice Ramessar, project coordinator for Consumers International, which is providing support to the CAC, says similar concerns were raised by citizens of Latin American countries, who at the time, questioned why international banks operating in their countries were not offering them the same level of service that they were offering to their clients in North America and Europe.

"They honestly believed that European banks operating in Latin America had different standards in Latin America than they did in Europe. The Latin American citizens said this situation should not continue. A bank consumer in Latin America is no different from a consumer in Europe," said Ramessar, who asserted that some banks have adopted banking codes in their own countries, but have not extended the benefits to be derived from these codes to Caribbean nationals.

"We have reached a stage where it has passed a critical point, enough for international agencies to see; this matter of globalisation, and corporations functioning in a global way. The same thing that holds in Europe and North America has to hold in Jamaica, the Caribbean and Africa," said chairman of the CAC, Lorna Green, who suggested that several locally operated banks have been able to make super profits from service charges alone.

"There is no mystery why a lot of international corporations, banks included, come to Jamaica and their establishment here becomes the most lucrative, and if you drill further, most of the profit margins is coming from services. The fees being charged for the services here, versus elsewhere, and even whether those fees exist elsewhere," Green argued as she highlighted the impact of the disparities on operators of small and medium enterprises in Jamaica.

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