PHILIPSBURG–Independent Member of Parliament (MP) and Leader of the United People’s (UP) party Rolando Brison has dispatched a letter to the board and Director of the Central Bank of Curaçao and St. Maarten (CBCS) urging them to take note of the situation happening in St. Maarten regarding the rights that are being infringed on citizens related to the way banks are managing them.
The MP also stressed that bank conditions and/or regulations, along with the alarming way some business accounts are handled, stifle and impede investment.
Brison, who last month announced that he will be submitting a Consumer Banking Protection Law, said complaints about banks has increased since that announcement by the everyday citizen who perhaps do not voice it so much publicly for fear of further action by the banks against them.
The MP said the issues are numerous, including honouring or being able to cash cheques, waiting weeks or months to open accounts (even tourists have a lengthy wait) and unilaterally closing bank account “is something the Central Bank has for years allowed to happen and has done nothing about,” Brison said in a press release issued Tuesday night.
“While my intention is to move forward fully with the process, I began in introducing the Consumer Banking Protection Law, this does not absolve the responsibility of the Central Bank to do what they have to do in overseeing these actions by banks,” Brison said.
On the closure of bank accounts, Brison said he sees nothing wrong with the Central Bank auditing the last few years of account closures to ensure that the closures were executed with good, legal reasons. He said it cannot be so that banks pick and choose which international laws to adhere to. “We have many investors that want to open accounts but can’t because of our stringent and business-impeding conditions,” the MP said.
“Some of these actions by banks are affecting pensioners and the closure of accounts also brings into question the ability of employers to pay their employees,” he said. “We can potentially have a situation where hundreds of employees on St. Maarten are left without a manner to receive their salaries or much worse, a way to deposit their salaries,” Brison said, adding that the Central Bank should consider taking an emergency measure curing this situation pending that ratification of the Consumer Banking Protection Law.
Brison said he worries most about the people he meets on a daily basis and how they can be negatively affected if one day they are told they can’t be paid because the company accounts have been closed. In such a case, he asked, what is the employee supposed to do to provide for family? “Just think for a minute how our people can be affected,” Bison said.
“Then what happens? Employees might get cash if that’s even possible from the company. But when the employee tries to deposit, they are looked at suspiciously by the bank and all sorts of other regulations come into play. Or you get the dangerous situation of ‘home banks.’ Why not have different levels of accounts? Meaning, a local account that does not allow international transactions, just local ones. This would allow an individual to live in case of another unilateral closure of a business account by a bank,” Brison said.
He said the Consumer Banking Protection Law will be anchored in four main components each with their own guidelines and stipulations:
Everyone has the right to a bank account. “It is crucial that every citizen and legal person has a bank account to manage his financial responsibilities to his community, business and government,” Brison said.
Banks will be obligated adequately to inform customers about changes/increases of fees. “They can’t just blindly introduce fees without informing the population first.”
The country will establish a Consumer Finance and Banking Bureau, a place where people can go for free if they have any issue with banks. The Bureau can intercede on their behalf. “It’s an Ombudsman for Banks,” the MP said.
Banks will not be able to close or end banking its relationship with a client without going through certain procedures which is in the law. “The point is to make banks more responsible in the way they try to end banking relationships.”
Brison said banks are going way beyond the scope of central bank laws and regulations to infringe on the privacy and rights of citizens and business people.
Bron: Daily Herald