The business of non-financial services that move through the banks is enormous. Insurance, assistance, advice … So far this year, it is around 500 million dollars, 5 percent of which (24 million) corresponds to the fees that banks charge for the service; 33 million in the consolidated 2017, according to data handled by the Economic Regime Commission of the Assembly. What percentage of that amount has to do with bank debits not authorized by customers? No one has established it, but it is known that it is the largest part. Yesterday, the Superintendent of Banks, Carlos Noboa, appeared before this parliamentary commission and gave figures that, for the first time, allow an approximation to the business dimensions of undue collections.
Along with Noboa were also the Superintendents of Companies, Víctor Anchundia, and Control of Market Power, Christian Ruiz; the insurance supervisor, Paúl Franco; and the Ombudsman (substitute), Francisco Hurtado. With their appearances, a discouraging panorama began to emerge: companies that elude the control of the authorities, practices of telephone harassment, sale (illegal) of databases, insurance whose costs begin to be debited from bank accounts without the client being aware of the respective policies…
The superintendent of Banks was the one who contributed the hard data. He said that, between January and September of this year, his office has received 51,218 claims for undue charges, of which 50,808 have been favorably resolved. In total, the superintendency has ordered the restitution of 1.18 million dollars so far this year. It is a small amount compared to the volume of the business. Almost half of that figure (554 thousand dollars) corresponds to the month of October, that is, claims filed after the issue of undue charges burst into the networks and the media. Before that happened, the returns were minimal. In 2017, for example, the number of claims resolved by the Superintendency of Banks was almost fifty times lower: only 1,371. The undue charges are, then, considering the risks, a round business.
Currently, nine audits are underway by the Super of Banks. “It is enough with a single transaction without the express authorization of the client,” said Superintendent Noboa, “so that the bank is subject to sanctions for serious misconduct.” The penalty is a fine equivalent to 0.005 percent of the bank’s assets. From that data, Assemblyman Pabel Muñoz, president of the Commission, calculated that the fines could reach 180 million dollars, considering a total of banking assets of 36 billion.
Much of the problem seems to lie in the fact that the companies that offer these non-financial services through the banks evade the regulatory action of the control authorities.
According to Francisco Hurtado, defender of the substitute town, these are “hybrid companies that have found a regulatory gap to execute undue charges. They do not qualify as insurers, therefore they are beyond the control of the Superintendency of Companies. ” Neither are they financial entities, therefore they do not render accounts to banks. That is why he has decided to open what his office calls a “defense investigation” to determine if this practice requires collective actions to be faced. For him it is “a clear example of corporate abuse.” Next week the superintendent of Banks will send new information to the Assembly. For the time being, the Economic Regime Commission agreed to prepare a report that would serve as the basis for proposing legal reforms that prevent the reproduction of these practices in the future.
The 1-800 line is not enough
The measures implemented by the Government, based on the individual complaint of those affected (through the telephone line 1-800, for example), do not seem to be sufficient to deal with the problem of undue collections from the bank. So far, the returns do not exceed 2 percent of the volume of business. (I)