Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) has recorded an increase in consumer complaints, with figures showing that the central bank received a total of 247 complaints between 2015 and the first half of this year.
This represents an increase of 154 percent from the same period last year, indicating that customers are not amused with commercial banks’ service delivery.
According to the central bank, major complaints lodged through the consumer protection and financial literacy unit include automated teller machines (ATMs) failures, leading to non disbursement of funds even when the account has been debited, continued deduction on fully paid off loans, failure to disclose information to customers and general poor customer care.
Reacting to the development in an e-mailed response to questions on Tuesday, Bankers Association of Malawi (BAM) executive director Lyness Nkungula was quick to mention that they are working towards ensuring that the figures are lowered by the end of the year.
She acknowledged the loopholes in the banking sector, saying commercial banks are working towards addressing each of the concerns.
Said Nkungula: “We acknowledge that banks serve customers with different backgrounds, needs and orientations as such, their levels of expectations also differ, but we cannot rule out any possibility of receiving complaints.
“Nevertheless, we treat customers’ complaints with absolute urgency because we believe these complaints help us improve our service delivery. But suffice it to say that the banks are tirelessly trying to keep the numbers of complaints as minimal as possible.”
She said banks have in recent months made investments in information technology infrastructure and have managed to upgrade their respective core-banking systems to latest versions to make banking easy.
“Apparently, banks are working so hard to make ATM failures a by-gone and the figures have significantly gone down,” she said.
On failure to disclose information to customers and poor customers care, Nkungula sided with commercial banks, saying all banking halls have information on different products as stated in banks’ regulations.
She said: “When banks are giving out loans they usually give guidance to the customer on the loans payment, and most of the times, banks print out the payment schedule of the loan for discussion.
“Customers sign for the loans without being pressured because they want the money. In most instances, it is those that fail to service their loans that will always complain of non-disclosure of information.”
In some cases, Nkungula said customers are granted less amounts than requested because credit risk assessments would indicate that the particular customer is not within limit of such a loan.
RBM spokesperson Mbane Ngwira in an interview on Tuesday said the central bank will continue to validate the complaints, investigate and engage the concerned parties until such issues are resolved to the satisfaction of both parties.
“We encourage all those that are aggrieved in any way to report such incidents.
“We have a full fledged division to handle customer complaints and consumer education,” he said.
Ngwira said customers that want to report financial complaints are advised to inform the central bank by writing, calling, e-mailing or visiting the RBM Consumer Education and Complaints Handling Division based at RBM Blantyre Branch or any other RBM office.
Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) executive director John Kapito has urged commercial banks to put their customers first and ensure that they restore their systems at least within an hour after breakdown.
He called on commercial banks to find alternative ways to serve their customers in an event of a system breakdown to avoid frustrating customers. n