Ekpa Stanley Ekpa
The customer is a crucial factor in the economy and every business succeeds only when the customers are pleased with the services and products. The customer through contemporary phases of capitalism has been regarded as a King with multiple rights. As a King in the service chain of banking system, the customer has duties which he owes himself and the society. Within the Nigerian banking system, customers of banks have certain rights and duties guaranteed by the relevant laws and regulations. In the face of reoccurring plethora of complaints by customers of banks in Nigeria, it has become expedient to articulate bank customers’ bill of rights, means of seeking redress, and duties as a bank customer as espoused by the Central Bank of Nigeria, the apex regulatory body of financial institutions in Nigeria.
A bank customer has a right to full explanation of all contractual terms and charges prior to the consummation of any agreement or contract. When you visit a bank to open an account, if you cannot read through the lengthy clauses on the terms and conditions section, you have a right to demand for your banker to further break down and clearly disclose all information on their products and services including charges on the services. This right enables you to have relevant information in order to make rational choices. It amounts to a breach of your right if your bank fails to provide this information in a manner that can be easily understood, or deliberately misleads you as a custome.
You have a right to free monthly statement of account. The Revised Guide to Bank Charges provides that banks are required to provide their customers with free statement of account on a monthly basis. You have a right to get your monthly statement of account from your bank at no cost. The Guide however provides an exception in cases where special request is made which attracts a fee of N50 per page. Anytime you are requesting for your statement of account for the month, make it clear to the bank that it’s the regulatory required monthly statement of account that you are demanding.
Your right to select from the ever increasing range of bank products and services is sacrosanct. In many instances, many Nigerians complain of been charged for products and services they never opted for. This means that some banks restrict customers choice of services by using a single service for all customers model, even when such services are ill-suited for your needs. Once you notice such services, you have a right of complaint and feedback, reversal and cancellation of such services. Stemming from this is your right to quality and good services. The hallmark of banking is customer satisfaction.
A bank is adjudged to have failed its obligations in all circumstances where it is unable to offer quality and value adding banking services to you as a customer. At the core of the doctrine of quality services is your bank’s provision of appropriate response to your needs and mechanism for resolving all compliants. A customer has a right to end a customer-banker contract when the customer is not satisfied with a bank’s service delivery on any product or service. To effectively do this, a customer must settle all outstanding commitments to the bank.
As a bank customer, you have a right to privacy and confidentiality. Your bank must not divulge your account information to a third party, and owe you a duty to protect your information from unauthorized access by a third party. Under this rule, you have the right to freedom from disclosure of your account details by your bank as well as intrusion into your account by third party, however, there are few exception to this rule: where your bank is required by law to make disclosure; and where you consented or authorized the disclosure.
Save and except in peculiar instances where banks decide to differentiate customers based on the nature of products customers subscribed to, all customers are required to be treated equall, regardless of differences in financial standing/deposit balance, physical ability, age, gender, ethnicity or creed. Your right as a customer is breached when your bank offers preferential treatment to some customers at expense of your time or convenience.
Anytime you are within your bank premises, you have a right to safety. In order words, you have a right to be reasonably protected from accidents while on the bank’s premises. The bank is required to guarantee all its customers a secure, safe and conducive banking environment devoid of threats to their safety and health. The bank is expected to adhere strictly to all applicable safety laws and regulations to ensure that your safety is guaranteed during banking transactions in their premises. This means you have the right to be protected from the negative effects of pollution of any kind whether arising from your bank’s operations or from other sources.
Wherever right exists, duties are bound to exist. A bank customer owes some duties to the bank as much as the bank owes the customer an obligation to protect his rights. To avoid the lack of knowledge of bank products and services which precipitate plethora of complaints from customers, a customer have a duty of knowledge and understanding of banks services and products to enable him make informed decisions. Sophistication in the banking sector is demanding even customers that are financially literate to “shine their eyes” when dealing with their banks.
When opening a bank account, you owe your bank and the nation a duty to provide factual information about yourself and exercise reasonable care not to mislead your bank. You will liable to an offence when you deliberately furnish the bank with misleading information. Subsequent upon opening your bank account, you owe a duty to protect your information and instruments – cheque booms, ATM details, PIN, passwords, and safe codes. It is established that a bank cannot bear responsibility for any loss you incur as a result of a customer’s negligence in protecting vital information of the bank account.
A customer owes a bank a financial obligation by repaying credit facilities and to pay mutually agreed interest on loans and other financial services rendered by the bank as and when due. Your failure to repay financial facilities provided by your bank attracts penalties in the form of default charges. Just like the capital market provides funding opportunities for investors and entrepreneurs, the money market through the financial institutions like banks provide funding opportunities for the bank customers. To keep the banking industry healthy, bank customers have an obligation to be financially responsible.
You have a duty of integrity to report any wrong posting of funds into your account, so that such error would be corrected. It becomes a criminal act to notice any wrongful posting into your account and ignore or use such funds. Also, you are required to promptly report suspected fraud or error on your accounts to your bank or the relevant authorities. Where you reasonably suspect a fraud or compromise, either in your accounts or with respect to relevant information, transactions or instruments, you are expected to immediately report same to your bank.
To seek redress for a bank customers’ rights, a customer must lodge a complaint with his bank. Where the bank fails to fairly address the complaint or where the customer is not satisfied with the outcome of the resolution, the customer can then escalate the complaint by writing to the Director (Consumer Protection Department) of the Central Bank of Nigeria. However, the customer can institute a matter at the Federal High Court or State High Court pursuant to the provisions of Sections 251 and 272 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) respectively.
Ekpa writes from Abuja, via [email protected]