Commercial banks' treatment of their clients have been pinned down in a voluntary code of conduct, which the Bankers' Association of Namibia (BAN) and the Bank of Namibia (BoN) jointly launched on Thursday.
'The joint launch today of the 'Code of Banking Practice of the Bankers Association of Namibia' and the 'Bank of Namibia's Guidelines for Lodging Customer Complaints' signifies a commitment by the banking sector and regulator to work together to the benefit of the consumers of banking products and services in Namibia,' BAN chairman Christo de Vries said at the launch.
The code promotes standards for sound and transparent banking practices and is a big step towards the enhancement of consumer protection in Namibia, De Vries said.
'The Code of Banking Practice is a voluntary code which sets standards of good banking practice for financial institutions to follow when dealing with customers. The code will henceforth guide the interactions of banks with their clients and it will help clients to better understand their rights and responsibilities as well as the bank's responsibilities in serving the client', he said.
The aims of the code include:
- promoting good banking practices by setting minimum standards for banks when dealing with their clients;
-increasing transparency so that clients can have a better understanding of what they can reasonably expect from the products and services of banks;
- promoting a fair and open relationship between clients and their bank;
- fostering confidence in the banking system; and
- promoting the speedy and effective handling and resolution of complaints.
De Vries said in addition to the Code of Banking Practice, banks are also committed to the highest standards of ethical behaviour as contained in their respective codes of ethics. 'Every interaction between consumers and banking institutions should be characterized by honesty, fairness and respect,' De Vries said.
The Guidelines for Lodging Complaints on the other hand have been developed by the Bank of Namibia (BoN) to guide clients of commercial banks to lodge complaints with the BoN. The guidelines further establish complaint handling procedures at the BoN to ensure a consistent approach in complaints resolution.
While the protection of the financial consumer is in line with the Namibia Financial Sector Strategy launched last August, lodging complaints with the BoN should be done after exhausting commercial banks complaint resolution mechanisms, the BoN and BAN said in a joint statement.
'Commercial banks are therefore urged to resolve complaints with their clients amicably. The guidelines for lodging customer complaints, together with the code of banking practices is but one step forward in enhancing consumer service and protection in the banking sector, while the financial sector is investigating a comprehensive framework for financial consumer protection,' the statement read.
The documents can be downloaded from the website of the BoN at www.bon.com.na or the websites of Bank Windhoek, FNB Namibia, Standard Bank Namibia and Nedbank Namibia.