Central bank seeks to ensure fairer fees
The Bank of Thailand plans to step up its effort to ensure that financial institutions charge consumers justified fees by issuing practice guidelines for charging fees based on actual costs in the first quarter next year.
Proper fee charges will be the central bank's focus in 2020, said Thanyanit Niyomkarn, assistant governor for supervision group 2. The central bank will give financial institutions some time to comply with the guidelines before making random inspections of fees in the middle of 2020.
"We will consider whether such fees are based on actual costs," she said. "If the charge is 200 or 300 baht, they must be able to explain what are the costs and criteria for the fee calculation.
"We are not accusing banks of gouging customers with high fees, but they should be reasonable and in line with actual costs. The banks must be held accountable."
The move came after the central bank received more complaints about unfair fees for banking services from both retail and commercial customers, especially fee charges of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
Business owners complained about front-end fees and pre-payment fees for loan products. Such fees could make SMEs reluctant to access bank loans, Mrs Thanyanit said.
Under market conduct practice, the central bank will monitor and examine business for complaints. Previously the bank paid attention mainly to bancassurance because of the high number of complaints about forced selling of financial products.
The practice of cross-selling insurance products bundled with housing loans reportedly decreased from 67% in 2017 to 7% last year, according to complaints made to the Bank of Thailand.
During 2018-19, the central bank fined four banks.
The central bank aims to expand market conduct supervision to cover specialised financial institutions and non-finance service providers next year.
For the first half of this year, the number of complaints totalled 251,000 cases, 46% of which were solved within a day, 84% within seven days and 98% within 30 days.
Complaints through the central bank's online channel, the Financial Consumer Protection Center, during 2017 to the third quarter of this year numbered 4,053 cases.
The complaints related to officer conduct such as false information, delayed processing, inappropriate debt collection and insurance cross-selling, as well as problems with products and services such as deposits, money withdrawals and transfers, debt restructuring, credit approval and unfair fees or interest charges.