While noting the importance of long-awaited legislation to protect consumers, Junior Minister of Trade Marlon Penn yesterday said he wants banks that over-charge customers to be reported to the Financial Services Commission (FSC).
“There is an issue of how the banks are charging – the fee structure. It is something that we need to raise with the FSC. These issues that surround these institutions need to be brought up with the relevant agency which is the FSC, to deal with this issue surrounding the banks and how they treat business.”
“There is an institution that is now charging 15 percent to do takeouts. That is wrong. This is something we have to look into. We cannot continue to put those kinds of undue pressure on the business community and the consumers who drive your business – who develop your business [and] keep your doors open on a regular basis,” Penn said during his contribution to the 2017 Budget Debate in the House of Assembly.
He also returned to an issue he initially raised several months ago about businesses illegally charging consumers exorbitant sums to use credit cards.
Penn told his colleagues that the cost of doing business is also causing undue hardships for residents.
He said: “I get a lot of flack from the businesses about the whole issue of the credit card thing, and how persons are passing on that cost to the consumers, and the issue that presents for the consumers… It creates a level of hardship because you have some businesses that could tend to be less above board.”
“And even if the banks are charging a charge, they (businesses that accept credit cards) are charging an additional charge over and above the fees that the banks are charging. So they are essentially adding a tax onto the consumers, and the last time I checked the only body that could add that tax is the Cabinet or the House of Assembly,” Penn further said.
His National Democratic Party government has been dragging its feet in relation to consumer protection legislation it had promised many years ago.
Penn, yesterday, said he wants the law passed swiftly.
“Those are issues that have to be dealt with swiftly with the advent of consumer protection and fair trade legislation,” he continued.
“It is not that I am picking on the businesses, but we have to make sure that we protect the consumers so that they are not unfairly being taken advantage of.”
Penn has clarified that the 15 percent quoted above is in relation to a restaurant that has been charging that percentage for ‘takeouts’. He initially mentioned the 15 percent yesterday while he lamented bank charges. At the time, he did not mention a restaurant.
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