Published On: Tue, Jun 19th, 2018

Consumer organizations on St. Maarten give opinions on role Central Bank

PHILIPSBURG — Yesterday we published the announcement from the Central Bank of Curacao and St. Maarten (CBCS) that on March 28, 2018, the National Ordinance Actualization and Harmonization Supervision Ordinances Centrale Bank van Curaçao en Sint Maarten (A.B. 2018, no. 5) came into effect on St. Maarten with the aim to strengthen the Central Bank’s supervision of financial products offered by banks and insurances to ensure consumer protection. StMaartenNews.com interviewed two representatives of consumer organizations here on St. Maarten about this recent development. Both had definite opinions about the role of the Central Bank.

Raymond JessurunRaymond Jessurun of the Consumer Coalition had the following to say: “I have not seen the new draft legislation so I only can give you right now a preliminary comment. First of all as co-coordinator of the Consumer Coalition it is to be applauded that the Central Bank wants to improve the supervision and the protection of the consumers. As the Consumer Coalition we have filled out a questionnaire which the Central Bank had sent to us about experiences of consumers with the financial services being offered in Sint Maarten. We will have to study the adopted legislation to see whether our contribution has been taken into consideration by providing the new legislation.”

CBCS pointed out that regulation has already been drafted in the areas of Overextension of Credit, Annual Percentage Rate when extending credit and Complaints Handling and that the CBCS considers it important to receive complaints, tips, and signals from the public regarding supervised institutions. CBCS stated that complaints are taken seriously and handled with due care.

In response to that, Jessurun stated that “We are looking forward to the complaints handling on the private insurance companies disappointing claims handling. We definitely agree that all information to the clients must be transparent and known upfront so that they can compare the products and services offered by the different banks and insurances on the island.”

CBCS also stated in their announcement that new regulation and guidance notes to protect clients when taking out financial products or services are currently being drafted in the areas of Product transparency, Duty of care, Advertising and Tyselling. The latter is now legally prohibited. “We hope to be considered again by the Central Bank to give our input when they draft the new regulations for the financial institutions they have to supervise.” Jessurun concluded his statement to StMaartenNews.com.

cor-merx-avatarContrary to Jessurun, Cor Merx of the Consumer Protection Foundation, took issue with the aloof role and standoffish attitude of the Central Bank, also known as “The Bank”, as the institute is described in legislative legalese. “The Central Bank only came out with this announcement after my radio interview last week on PJD2.” Merx explained. “There, people asked for the Ombudsman’s assistance with insurance. I then told them that the Central Bank has a role in this. The Ombudsman is not there for that.”

Merx pointed out that the CBCS is a very passive body and very slow with answering letters or complaints. “The fact that you must download a form to file a complaint is typical for this Bank.” Merx stated dryly. “Do you think that an old lady from Dutch Quarter can download a form?”

Merx wanted to know why The Bank does not have free consultations. “Why do they not let people come into their offices?” Merx asked rhetorically. “And why do they not help those people with filling out these forms and formulating the complaints?”

Merx is of the opinion that the Central Bank have no connection with the population. “It is a strange institution that no one knows about.” Merx stated. “Now they ask people to complain about consumer affairs when they themselves do not talk about it at all. They should have done that much sooner or they should do it consistently and more frequently from now on.”

Merx was not optimistic about the CBCS’s role in supervising and regulating insurance companies. In his past experience, he has seen little to no intervention of the Central Bank at local banks. Merx gave an example of fraud with checks that is being condoned by banks as an example of an area where the Central Bank takes no actions. “How many complaints have been filed and dealt with in the past 10 years?” Merx asked.

“But as I said before,” Merx concluded. “As long as you can not enter the Central Bank, the threshold is too high for the population to complain.”