Mozambique: Commercial Banks Can Be Fined for Mistreating Clients
The governor of the Bank of Mozambique, Rogerio Zandamela, warned on Monday that commercial banks who continue to behave in an extortionate way towards their clients could be fined.
His warning arose from the recent increase in the fees for withdrawing money from ATMs. Up until January, the withdrawal fee
was seven meticais (about 11.5 US cents), regardless of the sum withdrawn.
But in late January the withdrawal fee jumped to 9.5 meticais (an increase of over 35 per cent). Thus every time a client withdraws money from an ATM, an extra 9.5 meticais is taken from his account. Someone who only withdraws 200 meticais is paying back 4.75 per cent of that immediately to the bank.
One by one, the commercial banks, operating like a cartel, announced the increased ATM fee in January. One bank, the BCI (Commercial and Investment Bank), was slightly less extortionate than the others and only raised its withdrawal fee to 9.31 meticais.
Asked what action the central bank planned to take, Zandamela said the commercial banks acted unilaterally but informed the Bank of Mozambique they needed to increase the fee otherwise ATM services would not be sustainable.
Yet the Mozambican commercial banks are extremely profitable - and in certain countries clients can use their banks' ATMs without any charge at all.
To the surprise of the reporters, Zandamela then announced that the first two withdrawals from an ATM in any month should be free of any charge, in order to protect small depositors. He warned that, if any bank was found to be disrespecting this provision, then it would not only have to return the fees to its clients, but the central bank would fine it.
One AIM reporter immediately checked with his own account (held with the largest of the commercial banks, the Millennium-BIM) and found that for every withdrawal from a BIM ATM in February he was charged the 9.5 metical fee. There was no exception for the first two withdrawals in the month.