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Wikileaks...Bank Fees: Banking on silence

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Joanne98 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-24-09 01:11 PM
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Wikileaks...Bank Fees: Banking on silence

January 16, 2009
By Rob Rose (Financial Mail<1>)

The competition commission has allowed banks to spin the report of its inquiry into charges

Secrecy hardly ever works, said former US politician Newt Gingrich, and it absolutely never works when it's used "in defence of dumbness".

This seems to apply to the imbroglio that has resulted in the competition commission spitting fire at website Wikileaks for publishing the uncensored version of a 590-page report of the commission's banking inquiry.

Little wonder, given that the uncensored version reflects poorly on the commission itself and contradicts the theory that the banks are "open and transparent" with the public.

The report from the inquiry, headed by Thabani Jali, was the final outcome of two years of hearings into how banks set fees. Its sweeping proposals, which could save consumers R1bn/year, include capping penalty fees at R5 and overhauling the way banks charge ATM fees.

The report emerged just before Christmas, but there were big blacked-out chunks that were excised at the request of the banks. Thanks to Swedish website Wikileaks, the public now know that most of the excised portions were blacked out to protect the banks from public anger, rather than for true reasons of "confidentiality".

Take this excerpt, blacked out at Absa's request: "All the major banks assert that penalty fees, including fees for rejected debit orders, are readily avoidable by the customer by... keeping enough money in their accounts to meet any debit orders they choose to sign."


Banks censored report for PR reasons
Wikileaks will lay charges if the source is hunted

But what could be the justification for censoring that statement, other than to prevent consumers finding out what the banks really believe, public relations aside?

As Jali's panel said: "This fails to take account of social reality, a little like Marie Antoinette saying, 'Let them eat cake!'"
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