Author: Dr. Nicole Attard
During a recent press conference at the Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority (MCCAA), the MCCAA and the Ministry for Social Dialogue, Consumer Affairs and Civil Liberties introduced two new charters that focus on the rights and duties of consumers in relation to the provision of financial and banking services. These two charters were primarily introduced with the intention of raising awareness among consumers once they decide to invest their money, or when engaging a banking service of their choice.
The Minster responsible for Social Dialogue, Consumer Affairs, and Civil Liberties stated that these two charters will offer the necessary level of safeguards, equip consumers with all the essential information in order for them to be able to make well informed decisions, and instill a sense of confidence in consumers. Indeed, Helga Pizzuto, Chair of the MCCAA, asserted that these charters were drafted with the aim of addressing the consumers’ needs, and in order to publish reliable charters the MCCAA collaborated with the Malta Funds Industry Association, the Malta Association of Small Shareholders, the Malta Bankers’ Association, the Malta Financial and Services Authority and the College of Stockbrokers.
The charter on investments provides information to those investors who are less knowledgeable and therefore are deemed to be more at risk when compared to experienced investors. In fact, a financial intermediary offering investment services is legally obliged to assess the investor’s level of knowledge and experience in relation to previous investments in comparable products. This charter specifically provides intermediaries with recommendations on how to establish the expectations an objectives of their clients. The intermediary also has an obligation to question the investor so as to build a clear picture of what he expects to receive out of the proposed investment.
The other charter, namely the charter on banking services states that local banks must ensure that they provide consumers with good and efficient services and they should also treat consumers with utmost respect and integrity. Moreover, banks should ensure that consumers are aware of all costs relating to the services which they offer. Such information is to be granted both before and after the contract is signed. Information relating to fees must be available on the bank’s website and from all bank branches. The charter additionally states that consumers should also be conscious of the fact that they have a right to switch banks in Malta without facing any undue delays. With respect to the advertising of products and services, consumers anticipate that such advertising is unambiguous and honest. Thus, any information that includes references to payments, conditions and interest are to be presented clearly in all advertising mediums.
With respect to both financial and banking services, it is noteworthy to point out that if a consumer is not satisfied with the service or if his rights have been infringed, the consumer may complain with either the bank or the person who had provided the financial service. Nevertheless, if the consumer remains displeased with the provided feedback, he has the right to seek a remedy before the newly established Office of the Arbiter for Financial Services.