Former Saint Lucia Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony feels the time has come for domestic banking legislation to protect consumers.
“We need to protest people from the banks,” the Vieux Fort South MP and former Finance Minister asserted during this week’s debate on the 2022 Appropriation Bill.
He told parliament that consumers had experienced an unprecedented increase in bank charges in the past few years.
“Apart from the occasional complaints by irritated consumers no one seems to summon the courage to hold the banks to account,” Anthony declared.
“I have an account for my firm for which I couldn’t get a cheque book from the same bank. So I couldn’t get the cheque book to issue cheques and you know Mr. Speaker, every month they put a charge on the balance until I had to pay a thousand and something dollars in fees,” Anthony, an Attorney at Law by profession, told the house.
He also pointed out that banks charge for letters to confirm account balances, implement a service charge for issued cheques and apply charges for balances below a certain sum.
And he explained that consumers could not rely on the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) to protect them.
“The Central Bank is not known to treat the protection of consumers as a priority. It’s not concerned about that. What it is concerned about is the stability of the currency. It has no time for the users of banking services,” Anthony stated.
According to the former Prime Minister, complaints about the banking sector are not unique to Saint Lucia but have occurred throughout the region.
He recalled that only recently, Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley indicated that the local banking services would come under review to protect consumers.
“It is time to stop pretending that real problems do not exist in the banking sector.” Anthony told parliament.
In this regard, he expressed that moral suasion can no longer work.
“How many times in this chamber we plead and beg and say ‘Do this. Do that?’ They never do it,” the Vieux Fort South MP said.
In the meantime, he disclosed that consumers are suffering.