Actualidad Argentina

Measures to boost financial inclusion

Communication A- 5927 and A-5928 from Central Bank of Argentina

Argentina’s central bank, Banco Central de la República Argentina (BCRA), adopted two resolutions in March: Communication A-5927, on fund transfers, and Communication A-5928, on financial consumer protection and savings accounts*.

In their press release, the BCRA announced that the purpose of the measures is to promote financial inclusion by means of basic, universal and free financial access for all citizens, which in its turn encourages competition between financial institutions.

Free fund transfers

Communication A-5927 affects the commissions levied by financial institutions on fund transfers. The entities to which the notification is addressed (financial institutions, ATM network administration schemes and cooperative credit savings banks) will not be allowed to charge commissions on the transfers that individuals originate or receive using ATMs or online banking.

Transfers of up to ARS 250,000 (about USD 18,000 USD) made by legal persons through ATMs and online banking services will be exempt from commissions.

User protection and free savings accounts

Communication A-5928 amends and adds new practices affecting user information and transparency. It also requires all savings accounts to be free of charge. It is aimed at financial institutions, foreign-exchange agencies and bureaux, non-financial companies that issue credit cards, financial trustees, cooperative credit banks and non-financial companies that issue store cards.

1. Protecting users of financial services

- Notifications and transparency

Institutions must notify customers 60 calendar days prior to any changes to the conditions agreed in their financial contracts. When the change is in the customer’s favour, prior notification is not mandatory.

Each notification should inform the client of the following: (i) that they have the option of cancelling the contract before the changes come into effect, at no cost and (ii) that they can consult the “Transparency Framework”, a registry compiled by the BCRA for comparing the costs, specifications and requirements of the products and services offered by different institutions. All institutions must give the address of the Transparency Framework website in the notification.

When fees are changed, eg, on issuing additional debit cards, credit cards or others linked to the current account, the notification must include a comparison chart displaying fees charged by other institutions.

Finally, as of July 2016, those institutions providing online banking must include on their website’s home page a “Price Comparison” hyperlink to the BCRA webpage showing the charges that the participating institutions apply for the different products.

The client may not be charged for receiving notifications.

Reporting to the Central Bank

Financial institutions and non-financial companies that issue credit cards are obliged to inform the BCRA of commissions and payments they receive from clients.

Fees on new products and increased fees on products already being sold may not be notified to customers until 30 calendar days after the BCRA is informed.

2. Savings accounts: charge-free

The BCRA has announced that all savings accounts, named “cajas de ahorro” will service account holders free of chargewithout minimum amount requirements. Thus, no cost can be passed on to customers for: (i) opening and maintaining accounts; (ii) carrying out transactions at ATMs and self-service terminals, over the counter at bank branches or online banking; (iii) each account holder’s first debit card when the account is opened, and; (iv) card replacements as a result of normal wear and tear or damage to the magnetic strip.

Opening this type of savings account may not be conditional upon acquiring another financial product or service; the account must be offered as an independent product. Furthermore, when clients apply to open a sight deposit account, institutions must offer them information on savings-accounts, “cajas de ahorro” and the “Transparency Framework” registry.

On the other side, the BCRA allows institutions to apply an aggregate increase of up to 20% on each of the fees they receive on products that are not free of charge. From September onwards this limit will be lifted.

* Relating to the products offered, not the savings banks as credit institutions.