Most financial consumers in Ghana are sometimes unaware of how to seek redress when dissatisfied with financial services provided to them. This problem persists despite measures the Bank of Ghana has put in place to ensure that consumers using any of the products or services provided by a financial service provider have access to adequate complaints handling and redress mechanisms that are accessible, independent, fair, accountable, timely and efficient.
In February 2017, the Bank of Ghana issued the “Consumer Recourse Mechanism Guidelines for Financial Service Providers, 2017” (the “Directive”) (https://www.bog.gov.gh/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/RECOURSE-MECHANISMS-FINAL-20-Feb-2017.pdf) (http://citifmonline.com/2017/02/bog-builds-customer-confidence-with-new-consumer-complaints-guidelines/), for compliance by all banking and non-banking institutions regulated by the Bank of Ghana. These directives have provided financial service consumers in Ghana with rights to have access to adequate complaints handling and redress mechanisms. A “Consumer” according to the Directive is an individual, a group or a firm that uses, has used, or maybe contemplating using, any of the products or services provided by a financial service provider.
This article seeks to educate financial consumers in Ghana on their rights to established redress mechanisms.
Right to Complain to the Financial Service Provider
All consumers have the right to complain to a financial service provider if they are not content with a product or service that was provided to them. They may do so by using any channel of complaint provided by the financial service provider, before consulting the Bank of Ghana.
Traceability of Complaints
The financial service provider is required to ensure that a complaint made by a consumer is traceable and to that purpose, must assign it a unique registration number upon receipt of each complaint. This unique registration number is to be provided to the complainant when they first present their complaint to the financial service provider. The staff receiving the complaint must explain to the complainant the purpose of the assigned number and the importance of remembering it for all future follow-up on their case.
The financial service provider is required to resolve the complaint and present the decision to the complainant no later than twenty (20) working days after the date of receipt of the complaint. Where the financial service provider is unable to resolve the complaint within the stipulated period, the financial service provider must inform the complainant of its need for more time to resolve the issue.
Requirement for Extended Resolution Period
If the financial service provider needs more time to resolve the complaint due to its complexity or the need for additional information, a notification must be sent to the complainant in advance of the expiration of the twenty (20) working days permitted to resolve the complaint, explaining the reasons for the need to extend the period for complaint resolution and also specifying the length of additional time that will be required. The financial service provider has up to ten (10) additional working days to render a decision or refer the complaint to Bank of Ghana. The notification shall be communicated to the complainant in writing as well as in any other means of communication requested by the complainant.
Provision of Resolution
The financial service provider must convey the result of their investigation of the complaint and ruling related to the complainant in writing as well as in any other means of communication requested by the complainant.
Right to Appeal
A complainant may appeal to the Bank of Ghana if the complainant has not received an answer from the financial service provider after twenty (20) working days from when the complaint was lodged or after thirty (30) working days in the case of an extension, or if the complainant disagrees with the resolution adopted by the financial service provider.
When the complainant receives notification of the resolution of the complaint, he has twenty (20) working days to submit an appeal against the decision of the financial service provider to the Bank of Ghana. The financial service provider shall be notified by Bank of Ghana of the appeal.
If the complainant does not present an appeal within the time frame specified, the matter shall be considered as resolved by the financial service provider and shall be recorded as such in the complaints data to be reported by the financial service provider to the Bank of Ghana.
Resolution Period for Appeals Received at the Bank of Ghana
When the Bank of Ghana receives the appeal from the complainant, it has twenty (20) working days to investigate the matter and issue a decision. This decision shall be communicated to the complainant in writing as well as any other means of communication requested by the complainant. The financial service provider will also be given a copy of the written notification of the decision that was sent to the complainant.
Legal Implications of Bank of Ghana’s Decision and Right to take Legal Action
The decision by the Bank of Ghana will be considered binding for the financial service provider. The complainant as well as the financial service provider may take legal action if it is dissatisfied with Bank of Ghana’s decision.
For the Bank of Ghana’s measures to be properly implemented, there is the urgent need for the Bank of Ghana to sensitize financial consumers in Ghana to their rights to adequate complaints handling and redress mechanisms. The sensitization of financial consumers will also help increase the likelihood they will always be provided with superior financial services in Ghana.
Kwabena Oppong-Kyekyeku is an Associate at CQ Legal and Consulting and has a keen interest in Banking and Finance Law, Corporate Law, Capital Markets and Taxation.