Manila Bulletin

On bank fees and charges

- ATTY. VIC DIMAGIBA Atty. Vic Dimagiba is President of Laban Konsyumer, Inc. Email: labankonsy­umer@

Banks collect fees and charges for certain services they perform for their clients. What is not understand­able to me, an ordinary consumer, are fees and charges for bank services which were previously rendered free of charge.

I wrote the BSP governor as early as July, 2019 calling his attention to practices such as collecting fees for services which were previously available without cost, creating certain classes of services such as links to other providers which, while free at launch, are eventually charged, increasing fees for a certain transactio­n where there is no visible new feature to justify the new fee. I told him that we the consumers are confused as to what we are paying for and are questionin­g whether these are actually fair.

I listed the following specific items as examples:

1) Encashing a check in a bank branch which is not the maintainin­g branch will cost an additional R100.00

2) Over-the-counter (OTC) deposits and withdrawal­s made by an account holder will be charged

R100.00 in one bank and

R50.00 in another bank when the transactio­ns are made in branches other than the maintainin­g branch

3) Deposits made by a third party to an account which is outside the geographic­al area of that account’s maintainin­g branch is charged R50.00

4) Transactio­ns made online / mobile app are charged fees

5) A fee of R100.00 and a cap of R50,000.00 are imposed on fund transfers from the bank’s online banking platform to participat­ing banks

6) Online fees and charges are collected for transactio­ns made within the same bank

7) Fees are collected on OTC transactio­ns between an NCR branch and a regional branch of the same bank.

The BSP’s Center for Learning and Inclusion Advocacy replied, informing me that they have noted my concerns and that they will take them into considerat­ion during the regular review of policies and regulation­s. They added that they will hold discussion­s with the banks on these concerns. Since then, nothing has happened, and I concluded that the Center’s

reply to me was merely lip service to the Anti-Red Tape Law.

Now that the BSP has announced that bank online transfer fees are waived (until year-end), the BSP has said it can only “ask," but not impose on, or order, banks to waive the fees because the fees are part of the bank’s business, calling these fees as “convenienc­e fees” which should be shouldered by the consumers.

The BSP also recently talked about its digital payments transforma­tion roadmap – a good move.

However, I disagree with how this roadmap is now being used. Banks are justifying the collection of fees and charges for the online transactio­ns by reasoning that the collection of these fees and charges will provide them with funds to support their goal of transformi­ng themselves closer to the ideal digital bank model.

I disagree. First, the consumer already contribute­s towards the digitaliza­tion goal when he pays for the Internet to access the online platforms of the banks and service providers.

Second, the BSP can in fact order the banks to waive fees for online transactio­ns. It can nd the legal authority in the 1983 Supreme Court ruling on the case led by the Philippine Consumers Foundation, Inc. against PLDT where the Court held that “the load on the back of our people is heavy enough and let us not increase its weight further and that PLDT, which made millions of pesos in spite of its poor service, should

rst think of improved service, before increased pro ts and while the plan to expand the company program and improve its service is laudable, the expenses should not be shouldered by the telephone subscriber­s."

My third reason is that banks make billions of pesos in pro ts and online payments transactio­ns are in billions of pesos and earn income, therefore, they have the resources to absorb the cost of expansion and improvemen­ts such as the online fees.

I hope the BSP will stand down on the continued imposition of these fees and charges and provide economic relief for the consumers.

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