Banks To Fleece Customers More?

BEFORE I come to my subject, permit me, dear reader, to lodge two complaints against the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology branch of the Ghana Commercial Bank (GBC).

First, the so-called network of the bank goes down or gets disrupted far too frequently. Imagine going to the bank to withdraw money only to be told that “The network is down.” Some of us, as a precaution, want to know the state of our balance before writing a cheque for cashing. This is to save us from the embarrassment of having the cheque returned.

Moreover, it is an offence under our laws to issue a ”rubber cheque”, that is, a cheque that bounces because you do not have enough funds in your account. The bank must do something about its “Network down” syndrome.

My second complaint is this. Twice in the past two months, the bank has been unable to give me GH¢1.00 (One Ghana cedi) notes when I have asked for them.

The first time, I did not think too much of it. The second time, however, I demanded an explanation. I was told by the bank teller that the branch had been facing the problem of the scarcity of the GH¢1.00 bank notes.

The gentleman told me that even when the branch had specifically asked for the GH¢1.00 bank notes, it (the bank) had most often not been supplied with the notes. Even on the occasion, when the branch was supplied with the GH¢1.00 bank notes, some were torn while many of them were dirty and smelly. The reason?

It can only mean that new notes are not being printed to replace the torn and dirty ones, which customers had taken to the banks. Even in these days of high inflation and the infernally high cost of living, the coins, not to talk of the GH¢1.00 notes, are still legal tenders.

Even a gift of the GHc1.00 note to someone elicits feelings of gratitude because it can still buy something. In any case, if a customer cannot get money of any denomination from a bank like the KNUST branch of the Ghana Commercial Bank, where else can he go to?

The KNUST community and its environs have many people living at different socio-economic levels. It is, therefore, important that the bank should be able to satisfy the various levels it serves.

You know something, dear reader? Even when the bank’s network is down and you, therefore, cannot withdraw money, the bank will still be able to accept your deposit.

However inconvenient it definitely is when the network is down, one can tolerate the breakdown of machinery. But it is quite unacceptable and intolerable that a customer cannot have the denomination he prefers. Thank you, dear reader, for hearing my beef.

What is it we hear that banks in Ghana are going to charge their customers for certain transaction or products or whatever name they give to what they do? I agree that banks must exist because they play a very useful role, whether it has to do with small, personal transactions or big industrial, commercial and other activities.

The safety and security factor cannot be overlooked. If you know that your money and other assets are with a bank with a big reputation, you obviously sleep easy. It is good to know that, in time of need, your bank could bring you financial relief with a loan for whatever mutually acceptable reason.

The banks can easily facilitate the transfer of money virtually within minutes. You do not need to carry large sums of cash on you when you travel within the country. Go to your bank and you can have the required instrument: bank draft or whatever.

Of course, it is not the customer alone who reaps all the benefits. The customer’s money deposited with the bank is used by the bank for such transactions as lending it to other customers and charging interest.

In our country, interest rates are very high. In fact, they can be so ruinously high that, in the long run, the customer may be worse off. Property such as buildings, vehicles and other assets could be seized and sold off to defray the debt. Customers have been reported to have committed suicide in the hope of ending it all.

The banks do not pay any interest on your current account unless, as I have been told, the amount is up to a certain level. Yet they use money in your account to lend to other customers. When they have used your money to create money for themselves, they still say they will not pay interest. Of course, they pay interest on your savings account.

Unfortunately, the interest is so criminally and heart-breakingly minuscule or insignificant that the temptation is to take out every pesewa of your money and get out. What moves the bank? Is it greed? Yes, says Mr. Fiifi Kwetey, the Minister of State in charge of Financial and Allied Institutions.

Mr. Bernard Otabil writes, “According to him, (Mr. Kwetey), if you look at the huge gap between lending rates and the interest that banks pay on deposits, it can only be due to ‘greed and shortsightedness’”. (See Bernard Otabil’s article entitled IMAGINE A WORLD OF NO INTEREST PAYMENTS ON LOANS (2) in THE MIRROR of Friday, April 4, 2014 pg. 34.

Is it a hedge against default in repaying the loan? It is known that banks have to contend with what they call “bad debts”, that is loans they are unable to collect back due to a number of reasons: death of a customer, disappearance with trace, bankruptcy, etc.

Is it due to the rising cost of doing business in view of the poor economic state of the country? Today, there are very serious economic problems euphemistically described as “Challenges” by the Central Governments and its hangers-on.

Whatever it is, it is clear that customers are also not having it easy. Banks already charge customers for certain services: COT, issue of cheque books, etc.

Going to transact business at the banks is not always a pleasant experience. I have already mentioned the “network down” syndrome. In addition, sometimes, customers whether going to deposit or withdraw money, have to endure an interminable wait at the banking hall. When all the assets have been taken, customers have to wait in long queues.

Customers also run a real risk of being attacked by armed robbers who wait for them (customers) to come out of the banks. While this is not the fault of the banks, it cannot be discounted.

The question is, with the current death-dealing multiplicity of taxes, with the astronomical increases in the prices of goods and services, with the current high cost of living and the plummeting value of salaries, wages and pensions, why should the banks add to our woes by charging us for, for example, depositing money which they will use to lend to customers and make a profit?

With Mr. Seth Terkper practicing IMF-styled economics, all we can say is, “Banks, please, spare your customers further hardship by putting away your intention of making us suffer”.

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