CYPRUS: Banks accused of bombarding customers with punitive charges

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Cyprus MPs are joining forces to challenge banks over increased charges they deem to be “merely punishing consumers who do not have the skills or the means to carry out their transactions online”.

MPs will send a letter to the Banking Association and the Finance Ministry demanding that banks recall their decision to impose “punitive charges” as House Finance committee chair Angelos Votsis called them.

Votsis told reporters that if banks want to promote the digitalisation of their enterprises and cut red tape costs, they should not go about it by punishing those who are not tech-savvy, but rather encourage those who have the skills to do so.

He said this will be the spirit of the letter while noting that the banks have benefited from state-backing to survive during the crisis years.

“It's now time as the situation improves to reward their customers rather than going after them, especially as the most vulnerable and low-income retirees find it difficult to use new technology”.

Votsis pointed out that legislators have the power to intervene while adding that the Finance Minister can impose a ceiling on charges if they are found to be exorbitant.

Green MP George Perdikis accused Finance Minister Harris Georgiades of "preferring to keep silent" over the matter.

He said it was revealed last week that a decree can be issued to regulate bank charges for consumers, but nothing has been done.

"He (Georgiades) has not announced anything nor has he taken a position on the matter. He might be absorbed with his departure from office and busy packing up his papers. However, before leaving he has to assume his responsibility on this matter,” Perdikis said

Last week ruling DISY leader Averof Neofytou took on the banks by publishing a range increased charges that some banks are ready to impose on their customers.

He said such hikes are targeting the most vulnerable members of society, especially the elderly who do not bank online.

Under the new regime issuing a chequebook will cost €40 from €25, an increase of 60%, noting that this does not affect businesses but a pensioner on €400-€500 a month.

The charge for paying utility bills at a bank counter will increase from €2 to €5.

Neofytou added that cash withdrawals with the assistance of a bank teller will go also up from €2 to €5 while charges for managing a current account of up to €3,000 will increase to €6 from €3.

"They do not want poor customers. They do not want to serve the poor and middle-income groups. Simple as that".