The National Consumer Association (NCA) voiced its concerns on the pressing issues faced by consumers in this digital age, and on the burning issue of bank charges in a joint forum with the Department of Consumer Affairs and the Bankers Association.
The discussion was held on March 15th , in commemoration of World Consumer Rights Day and was dubbed, “Consumer Education on Digital Finance”.
Banks and their customers are moving away from traditional, face-to-face banking to digital platforms and with that comes issues that must be addressed.
These issues relate to digital security concerns which include cyberattacks, systems failures or data breaches, as well as online scams and frauds targeting financial consumers directly.
According to the NCA, statistics are not readily available to indicate how big the move is in Saint Lucia from traditional to digital banking. Nevertheless, these consumer concerns must be addressed swiftly and through a coordinated education and sensitisation drive reaching every customer across the various communities.
“Security is a huge challenge and consumers are open to cyberattacks and fraudulent activity online, but they often don’t realise that their online habits may be putting them at risk,” says Vina Frederick, a representative from the NCA.
“Fraudsters prey on poor privacy habits on the part of the user. Issues like weak passwords and using unsecured networks make people vulnerable to online attacks, like login
credential theft and phishing, which could result in fraudulent bank transactions. Banks need to demonstrate the security of their systems to their customers. They also need to educate them on improving their privacy and security habits to avoid online attacks like login credential theft and phishing.”
On the burning issue of the bank charges, the NCA notes that banks utilize customers’ savings to make a profit which is the fundamental understanding that customers have about their banks.
“It is a tacit arrangement that customers have no problem with because it is understood that a bank’s basic role is to secure consumers finances, in return for reasonable dividends,” says Frederick.
“Customers expect however, that banks will be more innovative with the management of their finances and show skill and productive actions in that regard.”
According to the NCA representative, customers detest banks simply resorting to the extremely parasitic act of ATM and other seemingly arbitrary service fees, and there is absolutely nothing positive and redeeming in simply grabbing customers’ monies from their bank accounts.
Frederick says, “such parasitism runs contrary to the very essence of financial management, which assumes profitable but productive innovations”.
The NCA is committed to advocating on behalf of consumers as it plays a vital role in educating, advising, representing, and counselling consumers to protect their rights. One of the primary responsibilities of the NCA is to help reduce the imbalances between business and consumers by empowering consumers and giving them the confidence to make informed decisions.