EFFECTIVE Feb 1, banking institutions will be required to provide “basic banking services” to Malaysians at minimal costs, Bank Negara governor Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz said.
She said that guidelines had been issued to banking institutions to govern the imposition of fees and charges.
“The guidelines specify the minimum threshold of services and monthly transactions that are to be offered without charge,” Zeti told reporters after the launch of the Financial Mediation Bureau (FMB) in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.
Details of the services offered under the guidelines were also announced yesterday.
Zeti said that over and above these financial services, as products and services become more complex, financial institutions needed to provide appropriate pricing that not only reflected the costs but also adequately reflected cost savings that arise from the investments made.
“In an increasingly competitive environment, efforts need to be continuously aimed at enhancing efficiency and cost-effectiveness to bring benefits not only to consumers and businesses but also to the overall economy,” she stressed.
Zeti said one of the crucial elements of the safety net for consumers was deposit insurance.
She said work in this area was at an advanced stage and the scheme would be operational soon.
“The deposit insurance system is expected to further strengthen incentives for financial institutions to adopt sound financial and business practices,” Zeti said, adding that it would also enhance public confidence in the financial system by providing explicit protection on deposits.
She said Bank Negara would continue to focus on the development of necessary infrastructure to safeguard consumer interest and ensure that consumers were given greater access to information on financial products and services for them to make well-informed choices.
On the setting up of the FMB, she said that with the blurring of the traditional boundaries between financial products and services provided by banks, insurance companies and other financial intermediaries, an integrated bureau was necessary to resolve a broad range of consumer issues raised in relation to these financial institutions under the supervision of the central bank.
“There are also clear synergies to be achieved from leveraging on the resources available to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the dispute resolution process, as consumers will be provided with a convenient and efficient one-stop formal redress as an alternative to litigation, which is time consuming and resource draining,” the Governor said.
Zeti said the creation of an integrated agency was in line with international trends towards such resolution centres, and the framework and model for the FMB had been benchmarked against best practices worldwide, notably in countries such as Britain, Canada and Australia.
The scope of FMB has been expanded to cover, for the first time, Islamic banks, takaful operators, development financial institutions, as well as select payment systems operators and non-bank issuers of credit and charge cards.
“Apart from the expanded coverage, FMB plans to improve its nationwide accessibility by progressively establishing five regional offices,” she said.
FMB chairman Tan Sri Haidar Mohamed Noor pointed out that the bureau would be governed by a board of directors comprising nine members, of whom five are independent directors, and the balance from the banking and insurance industries.
“The FMB, being an alternative dispute resolution centre, provides consumers with an option to the courts with their complaints, disputes or claims,” he said.
For banking and other financial institutions, he said FMB would handle claims not exceeding RM100,000 for both consumer and corporate banking related businesses.
For fraud cases involving credit cards, charge cards and cheques, FMB would handle cases not over RM25,000.
For Islamic insurance (takaful) cases, the value should not be more than RM200,000 (motor and fire insurance) and for third-party damage, not more than RM5,000.
“The decision of the FMB is binding on the financial service provider but not the consumer,” Haidar said, adding that dissatisfied complainant may proceed with legal proceedings.
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