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July 31, 2014
ECCB unable to take action on bank charges

The Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank has admitted that, currently, there is “no legal position” on which the financial authority can base taking action against regional banking institutions for fees imposed on customers earlier this year.

Sir K Dwight Venner, speaking at a press conference following the handover of chairmanship of the ECCB Monetary Council last Friday, July 25,{{more}} made this statement in response to a series of letters penned by Senator Luke Browne, in which he claims the banks have “no reasonable justification” for imposing said fees.

“On the question of bank fees, there is no legal position that can be taken on this,” said Sir Venner.

He did, however, explain that the ECCB will be looking into the reason behind locally-operating commercial banks charging customers up to as much as EC$5.00 to make withdrawals from their savings accounts.

Sir Venner said that central banks have certain financial “tools” at their disposal that they can implement when the institution is not performing as expected.

He further pointed out that he suspects that “their bottom lines are getting thin and, therefore, they are doing this.”

The Governor said that the ECCB will be looking into the scale of the increases in bank charges “to see whether we can have a discussion with the banks on whether these things are appropriate or not, and to what extent they affect the banking public.”

In a series of articles published recently (May 30, July 4 and July 11), Senator Luke Browne, parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of Tourism, Sports and Culture, referred to the charges imposed as “extortion and perhaps even a violation of our right to private property.”

Browne called for the charges to be rescinded immediately, and further called on Sir Dwight to intervene in the matter as “the commercial banks have in effect circumvented the authority of the ECCB.”

SEARCHLIGHT reported on the matter in its May 23, 2014 edition, when Scotia Bank, CIBC First Caribbean, Bank of St Vincent and the Grenadines and RBTT Financial Group published fees and charges that indicated that customers would be charged varying fees for withdrawing money, whether done via automatic teller machine (ATM) or in branch through a bank teller. (JSV)