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EDITOR IN CHIEF- ABDULLAH BIN SALIM AL SHUEILI

CBO instructs banks to expedite resolution of complaints

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Code of Conduct: Quarterly regulatory reporting on complaints and disputes to become mandatory for all licensed entities effective from 2023


The Central Bank of Oman (CBO) has called on licensed banks and finance companies in the Sultanate of Oman to adopt concrete mechanisms to ensure that complaints and disputes raised by customers are addressed and resolved promptly, efficiently and equitably.


The new guidelines are set out in a Code of Conduct that forms the basis of a newly introduced regulatory framework for the protection of the rights and interests of financial consumers in the country.


The move promises to offer a measure of consolation to many financial customers who have long lamented what they allege is the often lackadaisical approach of banks and financing companies in the handling of their complaints.


“Core to an effective Financial Consumer Protection Framework is an accessible and efficient recourse mechanism that allows consumers both to know and to assert their rights to have their complaints addressed and resolved in a transparent and just way within a reasonable timeframe,” Tahir Salim al Amri, Executive President – CBO, noted in a recent circular to licensed banking and financing entities covered by the new framework.


“The timely resolution of complaints, including provision of redress where warranted, is the primary responsibility of licensed entities,” he further stated.


In the circular, the Central Bank bemoaned that it has “been receiving many complaints directly from consumers, who claim to be unaware of the existing internal complaints handling mechanisms and procedures at Licensed Entities”.


In this regard, it directed all banks and financing entities to “widely publicise” information on how consumers may submit any complaints, and the channels made available for that purpose.


Additionally, the apex bank stressed the need for the expeditious resolution of complaints, noting that it “has been receiving many complaints of delayed resolution of cases”.


Calling on banks to be fully accessible to customers with grievances, the Central Bank stated: “Make available a range of channels—telephone, email, web, mobile—for submitting consumer complaints appropriate to the type of consumers served and their physical location, including offering a toll-free telephone number to the extent possible, depending on the size and complexity of their operations.


Specially tailored channels may also be needed for consumers with low or no literacy, and the speech or hearing impaired,” it stressed.


Significantly, quarterly regulatory reporting on complaints and disputes will become mandatory for all licensed entities effective from 2023, the Central Bank revealed.


“Licensed entities are advised to ensure that their complaints handling and database systems are fully equipped to accurately report complaints related statistics,” it noted in the circular.


Additionally, banks and financing company will be required to publish annually certain data on complaints, including the number of complaints, the average length of time for resolution, and the number of complaints satisfactorily resolved, it added.


The Financial Consumer Protection Regulatory Framework, issued by the Central Bank earlier this month, applies to all products and services offered by banks and FLCs (finance & leasing companies) to individual consumers and small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Also falling within its remit are liability offerings and loans, investment, bancassurance and other products.


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