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Business Community Condemns Bank Charges

Business Community Condemns Bank Charges
July 26
22:23 2019

The business community has been adversely impacted by the fees introduced by the Central Bank to commercial banks and which have been passed down from the banks to consumers, seeing charges applied to basic transactions such as cashing a simple cheque. The fees have become such a burden and concern that the Chamber of Commerce has written to the government regarding the impact of the fees and one business-owner has started an online petition.

Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) President, Nikita Usher told the Reporter that a letter had been prepared and would be sent to the government by today, Thursday addressing the issue and requesting a review of the fees and any relief to the business community as the fees have made doing business in a tough economic climate, even tougher.

Carla Maheia-Hart, a Belize City business owner, recently started an online petition encouraging other business owners and concerned citizens who are feeling the negative effects of the new charges to sign on and support the petition. According to Hart, since the fees have taken effect she has racked up over $200 in transaction fees in a span of only two weeks as she uses her cheque book frequently to avoid keeping cash on hand.

Notably, in recent months criminals have seemingly started targeting businesses increasingly in sometimes violent incidents, so keeping cash handling at a minimum reduces the risk of exposure to such loss and potentially deadly situations. Hart, however, says the new fees feel almost like a penalty on the business community for using cheques because it almost discourages the use of cheques as fees have been implemented charging as much as $3.50 on every cheque cashed.

The petition also calls on the Central Bank and the government to intervene and implement some regulations and standards, which govern and regularize the fees charged by commercial banks. Hart said as a business person she understand the banks need to make a profit and will pass on the charges but she said the $3.50 fee on cheques is too high and equated it to price gouging.

She also noted that small businesses owners are more likely to make use of writing cheques and added that the fees are mostly likely to put a strain on ‘mom and pop’ operations, saying it felt like a penalty for doing business. Hart said the petition has so far only garnered around 40 signatures but she is hoping that with lobbying from the Chamber and increased awareness, traction will pick up and the petition will gain more support.

The Central Bank of Belize introduced new fees to commercial banks in the country for use of its Automated Payment and Securities Settlement System (APSSS), which was first implemented in 2016. The fees, which became effective as of July 1, have been passed on at an increased rate from the bank to the customers on simple transactions, making it even costlier to do business in a an economic climate where salaries across the country recently have been affected by a contribution raise to Social Security.

The fees being charged by Central Bank to financial institutions using the service are as follows: $3.50 per transaction for Electronic Funds Transfer over $50,000 or time critical transactions of any value, $0.25 per transaction for Electronic Funds Transfer under $50,000, $0.50 per payment for Instant Funds Transfer, $1 per check for processing of checks up to $50,000, $50 per check for processing of checks $50,000 to $100,000 and $100 per cheque for processing of cheques above $100,000.

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