Poor service, hidden costs spoil banking
The central bank does very little to redress customer grievances relating to poor service of banks and the hidden costs that come with banking in Bangladesh.
It is alleged that the majority of complaints that pour in every day are not addressed properly or, if at all, get a delayed response. Sources in Bangladesh Bank say the apex bank has identified reasons for the deterioration of the banking service and that include, among other things, reluctance of top management of banks to address complaints, lengthy process of redressing injustices and obscure role of its own officials in dealing with banking grievances.
Between 15th and 30th June, the newly introduced BB help desk received 40 complaints through emergency phone calls, e-mail, faxes and its official website, but only 15 of them have been dealt with till date, BB sources said.
Most of the complaints are related to humiliating behaviour of bank officials and realization of hidden charges from clients for approval of loans, rendering credit card service and even for operation of accounts, the sources said. “From 1st to 11th of July, the number of complaints received by the apex bank may be the same as in June, but in reality 10 times as many incidents go unreported.
Not many are keen to lodge a complaint with the central bank,” a top BB official said preferring anonymity.
“Our duty is to send those complaints to the department concerned of the central bank and its governor. In many cases, we don’t get a feed back,” he said.
BRAC bank, a leading private bank, is realising a 15 per cent “sales tax” over credit card check processing fee, according to documents sourced from a complainant by this correspondent.
According to tax laws, a seller can realize sales tax of only 1.5 per cent of value of goods purchased. When contacted, a BRAC bank official of the credit card division claimed that the 15 per cent charge slapped on the
complainant was actually VAT (Value Added Tax).
“It means that the bank is charging its customers VAT in the name of sales tax, which is in violation of law, and not depositing the money to the treasury," said the complainant, a private firm employee. Recently, a private commercial bank deducted Tk. 2,000 from the account of an individual in the name of 'Account Authenticity Charge' when the account holder applied for a credit card to the same bank.
“I went to Eastern Bank Limited where I have a savings account and applied for a credit card. A few days later, I found that the balance in my account is Tk. 2,000 less than what it was after my last transaction.”
“I was surprised and enquired about it. The bank management told me that the 'Account Authenticity Charge' had been deducted from my account before issuing the credit card," he said adding, "It is unfair and I was not aware of such charges earlier." He said realising account management charge twice a year by banks was not fair.
Abdus Salam Murshedy, president of Bangladesh Exporters' Association, said banks are extorting money in the name of service charges in addition to higher rates of interest.
“There is no rule of law. The banks are charging their clients exorbitant fees and are getting away with it. The regulator does not bring errant banks to book. There must be some regulatory intervention to put a stop to this practice,” he said.
The BB spokesperson Jahangir Alam declined to comment on the issue.
Meanwhile, the central bank has issued a circular asking the banks to put up on their notice boards a list of service charges.
During visits, this correspondent found that some banks in Motijheel and Old Paltan areas had complied with the central bank directive while some others had not.
News: The Independent/ Bangladesh/20-july-2011