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These new bank charges smack of pure greed


rhondathompson, [email protected]

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There is enough in the world for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed. – Frank Buchman
CAREFUL CONSUMERS WITH A DISCERNING EYE would have picked up increases in prices coinciding with the 2.5 per cent hike in VAT effective December 1.
Response from the citizenry to the new tax clearly indicated concern but reluctant acceptance. Perhaps softened by the removal of the environmental tax of two per cent, one expected increased costs to be modest and indeed manageable.
As though touched by the generosity of feeling which abounds at this time of year, one was heartened, even bombarded, by advertisement inviting shoppers to enjoy a christmas goodie
of making purchases with the portion of the new VAT being absorbed by suppliers. What a palliative!
While the nation’s attention has been focussed on the off-on-off-again issue of the offer by Republic Bank of Trinidad and Tobago to purchase shares held by our Government and National Insurance Board in the Barbados National Bank, as well as the “Santa Clause-like” offer of $25 to sundry shareholders for each Barbados Light & Power share, the opportunity has been taken by other service providers to hike charges.
Despite having announced gleefully a profit of US$157 million for the year ended October 31, notice has been given by FirstCaribbean International Bank of intended increases, effective January 1, in the cost of wide ranging services on offer not merely to business houses but to all customers. These include withdrawals at the ATM whether at their machines or at other banks’ machines, deposits and cheques, printing of statements, standing orders, night deposit facilities, safekeeping and securities, early retirement of fixed deposits and the most shocking of all – withdrawals from savings accounts on in-branch over-the-counter transactions.
Already in force are charges for certificates of balance often needed for certain business transactions, especially visa applications, as well as purchase of United States drafts with payment in the same currency. To now add to existing charges, transactions on savings accounts is surely punitive.
Not to be outdone, Caribbean Airlines, effective December 1, has imposed an increased charge of BDS$235, up from BDS$115, without prior notice to the travelling public, for the second bag. Is this justified? Where is the Ministry of International Transport in all this?
Is there no help for the widow’s son?
While there is joy in the offer by retailers to absorb the additional VAT costs, one is led to wonder what mechanism Government has or will put in place to ensure it receives its rightful due from expected increased sales?
There are two burning issues which at this time of hardship call for keener attention. The first is the imposition by some businesses of a restocking charge in respect of goods returned by purchasers. In one known case the charge exceeded the actual cost of the goods. The second is the charge to customers of as much as $100 for returned cheques.
Again, where is the Fair Trading Commission in all this?

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