Independent oversight needed in banking to protect consumer interests

ATM machines at Bukit Gombak MRT station on Oct 8, 2018.
ATM machines at Bukit Gombak MRT station on Oct 8, 2018. PHOTO: ST FILE

The effort to better monitor the conduct of financial institutions in Singapore is timely (New group to promote better bank conduct, May 23).

It is not uncommon to hear of customers' frustration with their banks for service lapses or questionable business practices.

One of my friends is currently engaged in a dispute resolution process with a major foreign bank in Singapore. Apparently, late fees and interest charges of hundreds of dollars were levied on his credit card bill, and when he tried to call and speak to the bank regarding the matter, he faced repeated delays in getting a response, resulting in further interest and late fees being incurred.

This has dragged on for many months, with no resolution in sight.

The bank has reported the "delinquency" to the Credit Bureau of Singapore - an association made up of the very same financial institutions behind the newly formed Culture and Conduct Steering Group - which has in turn affected my friend's credit standing.

To ensure that Singapore's financial sector develops on a solid footing and in an ethical and responsible way, greater independent oversight is needed to better protect consumers' interests.

The Culture and Conduct Steering Group should include representatives from outside the banking industry, particularly those that represent consumers.

A more neutral, transparent and accountable process is also needed in the Credit Bureau of Singapore's operations, to ensure fairness and integrity in the resolution of disputes between financial institutions and retail customers.

Ivan Teo

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 04, 2019, with the headline 'Independent oversight needed in banking to protect consumer interests'. Print Edition | Subscribe